PARRSBORO - As the community mourns the loss of two brothers over the weekend, the questions surrounding their deaths remain unanswered.
Croyden Wood Jr., 48, and his younger brother Michael, 41, were both found dead on a Parrsboro beach on Jan. 21. The bodies had been sent to Halifax for autopsies, but no conclusions to the investigation had been offered as of earlier this week.
The brothers had left at about 4:45 p.m. the previous day to tend to either a lobster holding tank along the shore, or some errant traps that had been missing since the closing of local lobster season at the end of December, according to reports. They had been traveling on ATVs, pulling wagons. Growing concerned, their families initiated a search at about 1 a.m.
Croyden Jr., commonly known by the nickname "Boo", was found by family members shortly after 8 a.m. near the Parrsboro golf course. Michael was found not far away at about 3:50 p.m.
"From what I know about Boo, if there's anyone in the area that knew that area and knew the water... Boo knew that area like the back of his hand," said Const. Dal Hutchinson of the Cumberland RCMP. "He was someone who knew the area, knew Mother Nature and the tides, and there are likely a lot of questions that will go unanswered as a result.
"Right now, we can show the family support, and the community is grieving as well," he added.
The Parrsboro Fire Department was called to the scene at about 8:20 a.m. after the elder brother was discovered, and participated in a day-long search of the coastline for the second man. Joining them and RCMP in the effort were ground search and rescue teams from Springhill and Pugwash, a department of natural resources helicopter, and an auxiliary coast guard vessel.
"I'm very grateful for the co-operation and the effort put forth, first from the Parrsboro Fire Department, a group of volunteers who day-in and day-out have to deal with tragedy in a small community," said Hutchinson. "It's not the first time they have had to deal with a search for someone they've known, and I applaud them for their efforts and level of professionalism."
The initial call to the fire department came in as an ATV accident with one man missing, leaving Parrsboro Fire Chief Randy Mosher scrambling to deploy their rescue boat and ATV when they arrived on the scene and realized the magnitude of the situation. Firefighters worked throughout the day searching the beach by ATV and boat, and also searched some hard-to-reach areas from the cliffs above.
"People often think of the fire department and equate it with putting water on a fire, and some question why we need a boat or why we need an ATV," said Mosher. "This is why."
The fire department's resources were stretched even further when they were called to a structure fire on Templar Street Saturday afternoon, prior to Michael Wood's body being found. Fortunately, on the same day, the department was engaged in training at the fire hall with firefighters from Port Greville, Springhill and Truemanville, all of whom responded to the house fire in backup of their colleagues.
Mosher also received offers of assistance from the Valley-Kemptown Fire Department in Colchester County, and his former department in Hantsport, and became choked up when speaking of the outpouring of support that has come from the community and beyond.
As for his own firefighters, Mosher said Critical Incident Stress Management professionals were to be available for the members Tuesday night, and a joint debrief with local police officers was being planned for Thursday. Firefighters were also to participate as an honour guard in the funeral on Thursday.
"We have two very enthusiastic 18-year-olds in the department, one 22-year-old captain, and one in his mid-40s, all who knew the deceased personally and have had it hit very close to home," said Mosher. "We want to make sure they have all the support professionally available."
Hutchinson also commended the ground search teams for their professionalism, and Gardiner Patterson, who launched his boat and searched as an auxiliary coast guard member. He also made note of the number of community members who offered to help throughout the day, many dropping off food donations for the rescuers.
"It's not the first tragedy we've seen in our area in a short period of time, and it's always reassuring to see how the community comes forward in times of need for the families, and to show support," he said.
Croyden Wood Jr. was well known in the local fishing community as a longtime lobster fisherman, and was a member of the Parrsboro Harbour Commission. He leaves behind a companion and four step-children. Michael Wood was a longtime employee at Granby Industries, the local furnace plant. He leaves behind a wife and two sons.
Both Wood brothers will be mourned in a joint funeral at Trinity United Church on Thursday, Jan. 26 at 2 p.m.