As aerial search ends, Gainey family thanks helpers

Updated: December 12, 2006, 10:52 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

MONTREAL -- The family of Canadian hockey great Bob Gainey on Tuesday thanked supportive fans and all those who helped search for his daughter, who has been missing since a huge wave swept her overboard a ship in the Atlantic.

Laura Gainey
AP Photo/The Chronicle HeraldLaura Gainey was swept off the tall ship Picton Castle during an Atlantic storm Friday night.

Laura Gainey was on the deck of the 180-foot tall ship Picton Castle on Friday night when the wave hit the ship. She was wearing protective clothing but no lifejacket at the time. The U.S. Coast Guard called off the search for Gainey, 25, on Monday night.

A moment of silence was held for Laura Gainey prior to the start of the Montreal Canadiens game against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre on Tuesday.

In their first comments since the incident 475 miles off Cape Cod, the Montreal Canadiens general manager and his three other children thanked "all the people who have been involved in the search for our darling Laura."

"Their extensive efforts and their tremendous support throughout this ordeal will never be forgotten," the family said in a statement released by the Montreal Canadiens. "We would particularly like to thank the United States Coast Guard and the Canadian Forces' Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Halifax for their extraordinary efforts.

"We are also very grateful to the entire crew of the Picton Castle and the merchant ships that graciously volunteered their time and resources."

Less than two weeks ago, the tall ship set sail from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, for a six-month tour that would take it to the Caribbean. Gainey was a member of the crew, with responsibility for certain watches and instruction of volunteer trainees.

U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard aircraft had scoured the ocean for Gainey using infrared night-vision technology to continue searches at night.

While the water temperature was found to be a relatively warm 68 degrees in that part of the mid-Atlantic, and Gainey was a strong swimmer, the Coast Guard called off the search Monday evening as it was unlikely she could have survived 70 hours in the water.

On Tuesday, the Picton Castle, which had also been actively searching along with two merchant ships, also announced it was ending its search.

"The time has now come to end the search and allow our crew to carry on with the voyage southward towards calmer, safer waters," captain Daniel Moreland said. "They are tired, grief-stricken for their shipmate and heartsick for the Gainey family."

Gainey has taken a leave of absence from the team. A moment of silence will be held when the Canadiens face Boston in Montreal on Tuesday night.

A member of the hockey Hall of Fame, Gainey won five Stanley Cups with Montreal during a 16-year career as a forward 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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