CBC’s the fifth estate studies Gainey tragedy

Image courtesy gaineyfoundation.com

CBC news release:

It’s been almost a year since that awful night, December 8, 2006, when hockey legend Bob Gainey got the phone call that told him his daughter, Laura, was missing in the turbulent waters of the Atlantic.

Laura, a crew member on the tall ship Picton Castle, had been swept overboard as the ship sailed through a fierce storm and high seas on a voyage from Nova Scotia to Grenada. Laura’s death was headline news across the country. In the days that followed, the explanation of how this could have happened seemed simple enough – the 25-year-old Laura had been an unfortunate victim, in the wrong place at the wrong time, swept away by a “rogue wave”. The fact that she wasn’t wearing a safety harness or even a life preserver didn’t raise many questions at the time.

But, what really happened that night on board the Picton Castle? OVERBOARD airs on CBC News: the fifth estate, Wednesday, November 28 at 9 p.m. (9:30 p.m. NT) on CBC Television.

Gillian Findlay and a fifth estate team have investigated the circumstances of Laura Gainey’s death and her time on the Picton Castle and found a ship with serious safety problems. They also obtained copies of not one, but two, conflicting reports that were commissioned to investigate the incident.

The first criticized the Picton Castle for sailing so late in the season, for being undermanned and not following basic safety rules. But, that report was shelved and a second – called by some a cover-up –
was written. It praised the Picton Castle as well-run and safety-conscious and put much of the responsibility for the accident on the victim herself.

In OVERBOARD, you will meet some of Laura’s fellow crewmates, eyewitnesses to the events of that fateful night in the Atlantic, you’ll see video that they shot, and, for the first time, you’ll hear from the man who felt the tragedy most deeply: Bob Gainey.


  1. DYLANESQ says:

    I am so glad that the Fifth Estate has done an investigation on this tragedy (airing Nov 28, Wednesday).At the time I wrote letters to them, as well as to a lot of Canadian newspapers and government officials, demanding that a Canadian investigation take place as I did not feel that the Cook Islands was exactly up for an impartial investigation.

    When this tragedy of the excruciating loss of Bob Gainey’s daughter,Laura, occured, I tracked the Picton Castle online but soon found out that they had stopped filing their daily position (which is not mandatory, but I would think ought to be when they have paying passengers aboard)and it was not until much later when they docked in the Caribbean that they appeared on the map again. To me this indicated a definite attempt to cut off any communication.

    I felt that, under the circumstances they ought to have gone to the first port available (Boston?) as I felt that it would look very suspicious if they continued (as they did, for 10 days)and could be accused of having taken time to hide any evidence or coach the passengers.

    At a minimum, in Laura’s memory, a full investigation needs to take place to attempt to eliminate the possibility of a similar tragedy happening again and to clear the Picton Castle’s company and captain of any wrong doing, if none occured and, most importantly, to give some clarity to the Gainey family.If it was ‘only’ an accident then the family deserves to know that, categorically.

    I shall be very interested to hear what the Fifth estate has found out.Their ad for the program suggests there are discrepancies in the stories of what actually occured.

  2. Sulemaan says:

    My old man worked in the CBC for 30 years (full disclosure) but I still find their reporting to be some of the most unbiased and substantiated news-room reporting in Canada from a television perspective. When I see Fox News it makes me want to reach for Pepto-Bismal but I digress.

    We’ll have to wait to see the program but I think the 5th Estate will do right by Bob Gainey and his family. The key is that this kind of tragedy be avoided from occurring again in the future with another family.

    What is sad is that Laura Gainey was a recovering drug addict and turned her life around. When they retire Bob Gainey’s jersey it will be a very emotional night indeed.

    For a man who lost his wife and his daughter he epitomizes the words ‘character’, ‘class’ and ‘dignity’. I couldn’t agree more with cournoyer 12, we are very lucky to have Bob Gainey in our organization. Not only for his hockey acumen but the other intangibles he brings to our team.

  3. Exit716 says:

    The Fifth Estate is probably the best investigative journalism program broadcast in English North America. IMHO it is far superior to anything offered by the US networks broadcast or cable.
    If it wasn’t reputable I am sure that the family would not have participated.
    What was objectionable about the whole story was how the vultures of the media were swarming over the family immediately after it happened and how they tried to get Bob’s mother to comment, so much so that the family had to issue the request to back off.

  4. KerryPrice says:

    I personally worked on the docks.hehe.Not in that way. One summer i think the year was like 1997 the Tall Ships were in my province. I seen the Picton Castle up close. It wasn`t the most beutifull ship thats foresure.Pretty greasey looking. They coulda done tonnes of work on it by 2006 though.
    Someone should have been with her when this went down.She shouldn`t have been on deck by herself. Hopefully the Picton Castle will never sail again. It just sickens me that she never had anyone with her. Someone should be held responcible one way or another. I`m not saying criminally. But there needs to be some kinda investigation.

  5. WindsorHab-10 says:

    I’ll never know what Bob Gainey went through when he received that phone call but I know it’s every parent’s worst nightmare. Almost a year has gone since Laura’s tragedy and my heart still aches whenever I hear the name Gainey because that’s the first thing I think of. We as fans tend to take sports a bit too seriously and treat it like life or death when in reality we should be thankful and grateful for everything we have especially having a compassionate and wonderful human being like Bob Gainey. May God bless the Gainey family.

  6. Robert L says:

    I find it’s unfortunate that the CBC feels compelled to revisit this, and I hope that Bob is comfortable knowing this will be running. Placing blame for a tragedy, after all lessons are learned, seems needless.

    Last December, I blogged extensively and posted many links to stories about Laura Gainey – who she was and how she was lost. This link below wraps up much of what I posted and linked to.

    I’m running this by everyone again in hopes that someone will feel compelled to make a donation to the Gainey foundation. I also so hope that the CBC mentions the charity as well. It would seem a sin if they didn’t – in this context.


  7. habsfan reduxit says:

    … as much as I would like to know what happened to Laura Gainey, something about this just seems to be another form of voyeurism.

    … somewhere along the line, we – Habs fans and society in general – have to leave the family to their own emotional rehabilitation, and I can’t see how this Fifth Estate presentation will help them to do that.

  8. Naila Jinnah says:

    I think the Fifth Estate would still do the story if it wasn’t Bob Gainey’s daughter but the story had still made waves (forgive the pun). When something makes such an impact, it’s important to look back and understand what happened. As you all learned in history class, we learn from our mistakes in the past to plan a better future.

    Sure, the story is more sensational because it’s a famous person’s kid. To make it worse, it’s the child of a famous person from a renowned organization, someone who is still in the public light, and someone who has faced tragedies before. It’s a “perfect” story, in other words.

    As for the foundation, I’m sure it will be mentioned. And if Bob Gainey thought this was too much, or too sensational or voyeuristic, he wouldn’t have given the interview.

  9. habsfan reduxit says:

    Hi Naila,

    … I’m sure Bob is quite sure of himself in regards to this presentation and I accept that. It was not his view of the thing, but my own, which I called upon when I termed it to be voyeuristic, and I stand by my own opinion.

    … the argument you use is the same one the media always falls back on – that it is a story which has some degree of public interest. Unfortunately that argument is not always the right one.

  10. Dave Stubbs says:

    I’ve not yet seen the production, though I will on Tuesday. By Wednesday morning I’ll comment on it in review form on Inside/Out to recommend it, or otherwise. But a few things strike me:

    1. This terrible story did not end with the loss of Laura Gainey. If Canadian authorities have decided to investigate this on their own, evidently dissatisfied with the internal inquiry, then they must have seen something they don’t like (I’ve always had problems with “internal investigations”, such as one police force in Quebec investigating another after something inappropriate or tragic has happened.);

    2. Bob Gainey and his daughter Anna, key in the Gainey Foundation created in the light of the tragedy and the earlier loss to cancer of Bob’s wife, Cathy (click on the link at the top of this news item), have spoken on the record for the production with the hope that all the information will come to light. They have cooperated fully with the producers, though they did not initiate the project. The show is not, then, going to air against Gainey family wishes;

    3. If this were the Fox network or some Hollywood “infotainment” show, I’d run miles away from it. But the fifth estate doesn’t lean toward tabloid journalism, and reporter Gillian Findlay is a fine investigative journalist with a good reputation.

    Dave Stubbs

    Habs Inside/Out
    Sports Feature Writer, Montreal Gazette


  11. von says:

    I totally agree. The Fifth Estate is one of the best shows CBC TV airs. You can bet they produced with the utmost respect for Bob and his family.

    For anyone who may miss it because of engagements on wednesday night, it will also re-air Sunday @ 11pm. Or for you night owls, CBC newsworld repeats at various times in the early morning on different days.

    I will deffinitley be catching it!

  12. Ed says:

    Dave, I agree with you 100%. The CBC does a great job with investigative journalism, and if anyone can get at the truth, they will. I can think of too many instances of cover ups, where we did not learn the truth until years later. In some cases, because of the cover up, certain things continued to happen. If I were the Gainey family, I would want to know the truth, and maybe prevent this from happening to somebody else’s child.

  13. Da Hema says:

    I met Mr. Gainey years ago when the draft was held in Edmonton. He was having coffee with Don Maloney in a downtown cafe. I approached Mr. Gainey and we talked for a few minutes. I remember asking him at the time if he would ever return to Montreal (he was at the time the GM of Dallas) where he belonged. He simply smiled. I remember emphasising to Mr. Gainey how much the organisation needed him. My regret (because I was younger at the time) was not letting him know how sad I was to hear the news of his wife’s passing away a few months beforehand.

    Mr. Gainey since then has lost another family member. The circumstances of Laura’s death remain vague and unclear. A full investigation of the nature of her accident–and whether it could have been or should have been prevented–is essential. I appreciate and applaud the CBC’s efforts to examine and bring to light the circumstances surrounding Laura’s death. The Gainey family–like any family–deserves to know the truth.
    “Play every game as if it is your last one.”
    –Guy Lafleur
    “All hockey players are bilingual. They know English and profanity.”
    –Gordie Howe

  14. Mr Wonderful says:

    I don’t like internal investigations either, such as when newspapers have their own ombudsmen investigate their own reporters inaccurate reporting.

  15. Dave Stubbs says:

    I might have an opinion on that if The Gazette had an ombudsman/person.

    Dave Stubbs

    Habs Inside/Out
    Sports Feature Writer, Montreal Gazette


  16. Robert L says:

    Thanks for the POV Dave. I feel more reassured now that what will be broadcast is essential to the Gainey family and their needs. I wasn’t meaning to tint the CBC or the “Fifth Estate” with my remarks, and I take back the “needless” note.

  17. hyfyarse says:

    Regardless of who it is about our who is airing it, the most important issue is that a man lost his daughter. It has to be the worst feeling in the world to lose a child, and consider what Mr Gainey has already gone through before. My heart and sympathy goes to the Gainey Family and friends.

  18. Naila Jinnah says:

    Thanks for the repeat info!!! I was disapointed about having to miss it on Wednesday :)

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