Laura Gainey, 25 – Accidental Death, Picton Castle Passenger, December 8, 2006, Time of Death is unknown.
The Windward Isles Sailing Ship Company’s Picton Castle, 45 passenger, 180 foot vessel, left on December 5, 2006 headed south to the Eastern Caribbean on a three week voyage. The Picton Castle is a Tall Ship, offering passengers to become crew in training for $2100 and up. For Laura Gainey, 25, this was her second such cruise. She was experienced, and had completed many safety drills.
That experience didn’t help her when the ship entered into high seas as it headed south from Lunenburg Harbor, Nova Scotia. Wind speeds had reached up to 75 kilometers per hour and swells were in the seven-meter range, when a rogue waved slammed the back of the ship, and tossed her overboard 456 Miles Off Cape Code, MA.
Gainey wasn’t wearing a lifejacket when she went overboard, the victim of an especially large wave. Nor was she secured to the vessel by a safety line.
When Laura went overboard, other crew onboard threw items overboard to create a debris field. The hope was she would have something to climb onto, and it would help mark the spot she went missing for the search and rescue.
Daniel Moreland, the ship’s senior captain says the ship has stayed in the area to continue the search.
The Canadian Coast Guard has also been working with the U.S. Coast Guard for the search which is approximately 456 miles off the coast of Cape Code, MA. The U.S. Coast Guard district headquarters in Portsmouth, Va is the headquarters for the search and rescue operation.
The search is being assisted by C-130 Hercules aircraft equipped with night vision goggles for an eight-person crew. They have infrared detectors to locate someone based on their body heat, specialized radar and zoom cameras. American and Canadian search aircraft later dropped data buoys in the area.
The aircraft reported seeing the debris field, having spotted the floatation devices and radar deflectors thrown overboard after she went overboard, but no sign of Laura. The coast guard suspended their search on December 11.
The water temperature in that part of the mid-Atlantic is about 68 degrees. The U.S. Coast Guard said Gainey, a strong swimmer wearing protective clothing, probably could survive for about 36 hours. However, after 70 hours in the water the likelihood of survivability would diminish rapidly.
Her family remains hopeful. She is the daughter of Bob Gainey, general manager of the Montreal Canadiens Hockey Team. Gainey was well-known as a hockey player for the Montreal Canadiens hockey team. Gainey played with the Montreal Canadiens from 1972-73 to 1988-89, winning four consecutive Frank J. Selke Trophies, awarded to the league’s best defensive forward and seven Stanley Cups. He played in 1160 regular season games.