Ryan’s Commander,The Boat That Should Not Have Sailed
Author: Johanna Ryan Guy
ISBN-10: 1-897317-31-X, ISBN-13: 978-1-897317-31-0
Flanker Press, 2008, www.flankerpress.com
One week following an engrossing read of the true odyssey; “Ryan’s Commander, The Boat That Should Not Have Sailed’ by Johanna Ryan Guy, sister of two deceased brothers, and I am only now able to attempt to share its ponderings. The synchronicity of the Ryan’s Commander’s final and unceremonious anniversary rapidly approaches as I write and wonder what possible higher agenda was at work that fateful September 19, 2004 night when the brand new 65foot fishing vessel capsized in heavy seas off Spillar's Cove near Cape Bonavista and succumbed to the ocean.
Having the fortitude to meet with accidental author Johanna Ryan Guy, one instantly shares compassion for the Ryan journey as old East coast community hospitality and wisdom takes on a life times worth of bureaucratic loop holes to be navigated.
Author Johanna Ryan guy candidly and intimately pays tribute to brothers Dave and Joe (June) Ryan who procured the ship’s design who among many friends and acquaintances built the state the art million dollar vessel with intent to grow a thriving family fishing business.
In their tiny Newfoundland community, its namesake ‘Saint Brendan’ presides over generations of seasoned fishing families. Curiously, Saint Brendan, a bold and adventurous sixth century Irish Monk reputedly and unwittingly set sail for his namesake home across the Atlantic in a small open boat. Patron Saint to fishermen, sea travellers and mariners, this Monk may well still preside over the Ryan’s Commander investigative proceedings and call for government regulation reform as well as their loved ones.
One small fishing vessel’s demise continues to ripple an alarm call throughout the world regarding government regulations, safety protocols and emergency response protocols as government officials slowly consider all aspects of that tragedy in the interim, offering little comfort to loved ones and those in the industry. Four of a six man well experienced crew survived leaving loved ones, friends and the world scratching their heads in an aftermath of questions regarding safety regulations and emergency response mishaps. Perhaps initial architectural and engineering design of the Ryan’s Commander should not have passed certification and as such in hand with abbreviated testing measures, simply should not have sailed.
Survivors must continue to painstakingly recall the sinking and rescue which illuminates a much bigger picture of legal ramifications and profound safety implications that continue to astound.
How is it that if the Ryan’s Commander was unable to recover a roll at 39 degrees when the national standard is some 48 degrees? One federal report concludes that fault lay in the vessel’s design leaving the Ryan family mournfully filing suit against the federal government as well as the designers of the vessel.
How was it that following the transmitted distress signal the first search and rescue air vehicle to left Gander one hour later? One woman helplessly watching the scene unfold from her Spillar’s Cove home overlooking the bay put in several calls to the RCMP and Coast Guard, only to watch as eventually a helicopter arrived and went in the wrong direction. Search and Rescue staff made their first attempt at 9:44p.m., some three hours after the capsizing.
How difficult the initial news of the vessel’s sinking must have been, yet unlike other mourning processes, this one seems to never end. Without malice, the Ryan family and friends must continue to contend with bureaucratic mishaps, inquiries and obstacles.
“We cannot direct the winds, but we can adjust our sails.”
A Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador Justice concluded a ruling which prevents a law suit against Workers' Compensation, Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission which refers to negation whereby the vessel's builders and designers can not be sued as the act as it stands prevents employees from suing employers or fellow workers. Lawyers for the Ryan family continue challenging interpretation of legislation where provincial act is also over ruled by the federal Marine Liability Act in that it impairs rights under areas of federal constitutional jurisdiction regarding navigation and shipping.
With intention to rectify numerous technical and other problems arising from the tragedy, a lawsuit alleging negligent construction and design of the vessel, essentially a failure by the Canadian government to properly oversee and inspect the vessel, and accountability of negligence in the rescue operation was filed in September 2006 by the family defendants further calling for accountability, namely; the Attorney General of Canada, Marine Services International Ltd., Universal Marine Ltd., as well as naval architect David Porter. Lawsuits also allege that Transport Canada failed to enforce safety regulations, as well as asserts that the two private companies that built the vessel failed to ensure the safety of the Ryan's Commander. Additional allegations filed refer to Transport Canada neglect in enforcing key Canada Shipping Act regulations, specifically; failing to provide adequate training of the vessel’s uniquely designed anti-roll tanks functioned and that an inclining experiment was neglected, in sufficient insurance of vessel stability.
The Ryan family further strongly opposes the Federal Government recent decision to close the Marine Rescue Center in St. John’s Newfoundland,
“This is my MAYDAY call:…For the past seven years since the sinking of the Ryan’s Commander and the loss of my two brothers, we have been focusing on increasing safety measures and improved Search & Rescue for all of Canada. … We need to know that we can depend on our government to be even more prepared for a future disaster, that if Search & Rescue was there just 10 to 15 minutes earlier, I could still have at least one of my brothers; that their parents could have had at least one of their sons saved; that his wife could have had her husband; and that his kids could have had their father…Timely and accurate information is of the utmost importance for a rescue off our windswept shores; so I ask again, kindly reverse this unjust decision…. In courage, I rant and roar like a true Newfoundlander.
A segment with Fifth Estate is scheduled to be aired this fall focussing on Search and Rescue, and East coast tragedy’s. Johanna in hand with extended Ryan family and friends continue to effect regulation reform in hopes that a tragedy like the Ryan’s Commander never happens again.
Born and raised in St. Brendan’s Island, Bonavista Bay, New Foundland, Johanna is youngest of seven children, an Entrepreneur, mother of two (Bobby Joe and Hannah) who continues to write and politick for legislation change. Johanna is a member of the Writer's Union of Canada.
“I read somewhere that life is not measured by the breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away.”
Honourably reviewed by fellow writer: Jan Porter www.inspiredsoulworks.com
Jan Porter ~ Author www.inspiredsoulworks.com