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Terry Billard: The Incident on Fishing Vessel Cheryl & Diane

The story of a Newfoundland fish harvester who successfully used his Personal Locator Beacon in his time of need.

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On the morning of September 2nd, 2023, Terry Billard left port in Burgeo with plans to dock in François later that night. It was a beautiful day on the water with clear blue skies. Eleven miles from Grey River, he contacted his wife to let her know everything was okay and that he would call her when he settled in François. Just an hour later, things took a turn. 

Terry first noticed something was wrong when he entered his wheelhouse and noticed the gauges were flickering wildly. Unsure of what trouble his boat was in, he steamed towards the nearest port in Grey River. Six miles out, smoke began rising from the dash, and he knew then that something was seriously wrong.

When Terry opened the engine room hatch, he was immediately faced with fire and smoke. Working quickly, he grabbed a fire extinguisher to spray the flames. He closed the hatch and waited for the fire to die down. However, upon opening the hatch again minutes later, he saw that the fire had only gotten worse.

With the engine room fire continuing to rage, and fumes beginning to choke him, he knew it was time to abandon ship. Terry dressed himself in his immersion suit, grabbed his Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), threw his aluminum boat overboard, and got inside. He made sure to distance himself from the long liner before taking a moment to look back. The Cheryl & Diane was engulfed in flames.

That's when he set off his PLB, alerting Search & Rescue of his emergency and his position. Terry was able to pinpoint the response time to just a minute and a half after using his beacon, as he noticed later that's when he received a call from Search & Rescue. Terry also called 911 after setting his beacon off, who informed him that they had already been speaking to his wife who was contacted when the PLB went off.

It seemed Terry was lucky that day, with everything falling into place to make sure he made it out of this harrowing situation safe and unharmed. However, what truly saved him that day was his preparedness for an emergency and the equipment he kept on board.

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Listen to Terry Billard recount the events on WorkplaceNL's podcast The Signal by clicking here.

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