At Least 4 Dead, 15 Missing After Fishing Boat Sinks Near Canadian Coast

Rescue crews in Newfoundland are searching for 15 people after a Spanish fishing boat sank about 280 miles off the coast Tuesday.

So far, three members of the 22-person boat crew have been rescued, and there are four confirmed deaths, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) reported. The survivors were discovered on a lifeboat. Authorities are still trying to reach another lifeboat, and they have confirmed "that there are bodies" on it, according to the Spanish newspaper Sur in English. It is unclear whether these people are alive.

Although the cause of the sinking is not yet known, the waters off Newfoundland have proved treacherous for fishing boats before. A scallop boat capsized off the southern Newfoundland coast this past December, killing one of the three men on board, the CBC reported.

On Tuesday, the Spanish boat, called the Villa de Pitanxo, sank at around 1 a.m. in "rough seas," Maica Larriba, a deputy delegate of the government in Pontevedra, Spain, told Spanish public radio. Once the boat's tracking signal was lost, rescue crews approached the area, where they found the life rafts, according to Sur in English.

In total, the Villa de Pitanxo had four lifeboats, but two were empty, CBC reported. Another Spanish fishing boat was the first on the scene and found the third lifeboat with three survivors and four dead, the CBC said.

The survivors the rescue crews found in the third lifeboat were in hypothermic shock "because the temperature of the water was very low," the Sur in English report said. The water temperature near St. John's, Newfoundland, was about 32.4 degrees Fahrenheit, according to World Sea Temperatures. University of Michigan Health says hypothermia can begin in water temperatures as high as 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

A senior public affairs officer with Halifax's Joint Rescue Coordination Center, Lieutenant Commander Brian Owens, told the CBC the rescue crews are having trouble locating more of the sailors because of the winter weather causing large waves and reduced visibility.

"Anyone that has traveled on the Grand Banks knows that this is not an abnormal situation, so we are working hard to see and to search the area again with hopes that we'll find the remaining crew," he said.

In addition to a Canadian helicopter and rescue vessel, Spanish and Portuguese fishing boats have joined the search and rescue efforts, according to Sur.

The report added that the Villa de Pitanxo crew was from Marín in the Pontevedra region in northwest Spain. At a press conference, Larriba said that out of the 22 sailors, 12 are Spanish, eight are Peruvian and two are Ghanaian.

Spaniard Juan Padín captained the Villa Pitanxo. Sur in English said heis an "experienced sailor who knows the area well" and had been sailing the waters of Newfoundland for several years. It was not immediately clear whether Padín was among the survivors.

Update 02/15/22 11:25 a.m. ET: This story was updated to add more information and background.

Cape Spear, Newfoundland
A Spanish fishing boat sank off the coast of Newfoundland, with at least four people confirmed dead and 15 reported missing. Above, the Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site in St. Johns, Newfoundland. Stock Image/Getty Images