Coast Guard combing Cape Cod area for Laura Gainey

Updated: December 11, 2006, 12:49 AM ET
Associated Press

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia -- The daughter of hockey Hall of Famer Bob Gainey was swept off a Nova Scotia ship during an Atlantic storm, and Canadian and U.S. rescuers are looking for her in an extensive ocean search.

Laura Gainey, a 25-year-old crew member whose father is the Montreal Canadiens general manager, was washed off the covered deck of a Caribbean-bound vessel by a large wave Friday night.

A U.S. Coast Guard vessel searched through the night, and aircraft resumed searching at first light Sunday, Coast Guard spokeswoman Faith Wisinski said. They are scouring an area about 475 miles southeast of Cape Cod, Mass.

U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Larry Chambers said crews using a plane and two vessels planned to search overnight Sunday for Gainey. Another plane would be on standby for possible use Monday morning.

"Our crews have night-vision goggles and infrared abilities on board to pick up temperature changes in the water," Chambers said. "All help in night searches."

Gainey had been in the water almost 40 hours without a lifejacket but was wearing warm protective clothing. Wisinski said the water is warm, but life-threatening hypothermia ordinarily sets in after 36 hours.

The U.S. Coast Guard has sent a plane with infrared radar, cameras and a crew of eight. The Canadian search and rescue center sent a Hercules aircraft to the area. The vessel Mindanao, a civilian tanker, is participating in the search, along with Gainey's boat, the Picton Castle.

Dan Moreland, senior captain of the Picton Castle, said Gainey is a volunteer on the tall ship. He called her a "well-loved crew member," who is very fit and a strong swimmer.

Bob Gainey learned the missing woman was his daughter on Saturday. Players and coaches had a day off Sunday and were not available for comment. The team said "the thoughts and prayers of the entire Montreal Canadiens organization are with Mr. Gainey and his family."

Bob Gainey is awaiting news on the search with his three other children, Anna, Colleen and Steve. The club said assistant general manager Pierre Gauthier will handle Gainey's responsibilities. Gainey also holds the title of executive vice president.

Moreland described the situation as "completely devastating for everybody" on the vessel, which undertakes voyages around the world. He said hundreds of former crew members of the ship have been contacting the Lunenburg headquarters to express concern.

"It could happen to any ship, to any captain," he said from headquarters. "And, from my point of view, it's the captain's greatest fear."

Gainey first joined the ship as a trainee in Cape Town, South Africa, in the last three months of the ship's world voyage.

"She is hardworking, someone who wanted to turn her life around. She was passionate about sailing, loves it and worked very hard," he said. "She was no slouch."

The 180-foot ship serves as a training vessel. According to the ship's Web site, trainees learn "traditional seafaring skills" and need no prior sailing experience. They keep lookout, handle sails, raise anchor, haul lines and help in the galley. "All hands stand watch underway and in port."

Bob Gainey, who turns 53 on Wednesday, won five Stanley Cups with Montreal during a 16-year career from 1973-89. He also won a championship as general manager of the Dallas Stars in 1999. His wife, Cathy, died of brain cancer in 1995 at 39.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press