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The search for a missing fisher who had been aboard a boat that capsized and sank off the west coast of Cape Breton was suspended indefinitely on Sunday night, hours after a First Nation reported that two of the vessel’s crew members had died.

The decision to suspend the operation was made “based on the results of the search over the last 25 hours,” a tweet from the Halifax Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre reads.

“Unfortunately, we’ve come to that conclusion based on the environmental conditions, the length of time in the water that potentially this individual has been in, and the ability to search and find a successful conclusion,” said spokesman Lt.-Cmdr. Brian Owens.

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Rescuers first received a distress call from the FV Tyhawk off of Cheticamp, N.S., at about 5:45 p.m. Saturday and learned the vessel was sinking, but lost the signal once the boat capsized, the rescue centre has said.

A local vessel rescued four of the crew members from the water, but the fifth remains missing.

The Elsipogtog First Nation said in a Facebook post that two crew members aboard the vessel died after it capsized Saturday, adding the community is grieving.

Elsipogtog’s chief and council did not say whether it counts the missing fisher among the dead, nor did it name the victims.

“The Elsipogtog Chief & Council send our prayers and deepest sympathies to the families of the 2 crew members who perished in the accident,” the Facebook post from the band reads.

“As our community comes to grips with this tragedy, we cannot help but to be reminded of the dangers our brave fishers face each year to support their families and communities.”

Owens said a helicopter and military plane were dispatched to the scene after authorities received the distress call, but were grounded due to bad weather.

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The CCGS Cape Roger later took over the search on the water.

But Owens said the odds were very poor that the fisher would be found alive, based on the water temperature and weather conditions.

He said the search would not resume unless new information is received.

“Regrettably, we’ve had to come to the conclusion to suspend that search and turn this over to the RCMP as a missing persons case,” he said.

Emergency Health Services did not immediately offer comment Sunday.

Editor’s note: (April 5, 2021): An earlier version of this story described Elsipogtog as a Nova Scotia First Nation, but it is in New Brunswick.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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