APTN triggers chief coroner to take command of death investigation

APTN reporter Kenneth Jackson operates the boat last used by two Mohawk fishermen when they drowned nine years ago. APTN tested the boat in various ways to challenge the police theory of how the men may have drowned.

An investigation by APTN has shed new light on the deaths of two Mohawk fishermen who authorities say drowned in the Bay of Quinte, about 200 km east of Toronto, nine years ago.

Our investigation has shown that Tyler Maracle, 21, and Matthew Fairman, 26, couldn’t have drowned in the manner police claim and, as a result, the chief coroner of Ontario is now bringing in his own boating experts to re-investigate how the fishermen’s 14-foot aluminum boat went down.

“You brought some perspectives that are very interesting and have raised questions,” said Dr. Dirk Huyer, in a recent telephone call with APTN reporter Kenneth Jackson.

The police theory is the fishermen were stealing fish from gill nets placed across the bottom of the bay, took too many and their boat sunk in the early morning hours of April 26, 2015.

Police said the weight of the fish, along with other items in the boat, caused the boat to “swamp” and sink flat to the bottom. The fishermen subsequently drowned.

It’s only a theory, because police never tested it.

APTN Investigates did.

We took the same boat back on the water for the first time since it was pulled from the bay.

We wanted to see how much weight the boat could take and how it maneuvered using the same power of motor the fishermen had.

Simply put: the boat didn’t sink on its own.

Not until three men pushed on the side of the boat, forcing water into it, did the boat swamp and sink.

Reporter Kenneth Jackson stands in the boat with approximately 1,100 lbs. in it showing the vessel floats well even beyond its weight capacity of 800 lbs.

We captured it all on video and it makes up part of the third chapter of “Secrets of the Bay” – APTN’s ongoing investigative documentary series on the deaths that began last October.

APTN first informed Huyer of our test results in early May. The chief coroner soon made contact with Tyler’s family to ensure the boat was secured for additional testing.

Following the airing of Chapter 3 on June 7, Huyer contacted the family to confirm he has identified two independent boating experts.

“I … indicated that we have identified two experts that we are hoping will assist us—one is a forensic engineer and the other is a naval architect,” Huyer said, in an email to APTN, on June 10.

Tyler’s mother, Tammy Maracle, told Huyer that she no longer wants the Ontario Provincial Police to be involved because she questions its commitment to finding out the truth about her son’s death.

The OPP were tasked to re-investigate the deaths in 2020 after Tammy protested outside of the Tyendinaga Police Service station demanding a new investigation.

The original investigation had been led by Tyendinaga police with the OPP providing assistance, especially in the underwater search.

The OPP reviewed the case before reaching the same conclusion of how the fishermen drowned.

Huyer emphasized to Tyler’s family that the experts are independent of police and were chosen by his office. He said the OPP’s involvement will be limited to providing its information to the experts for evaluation.

“I will be connecting with Tammy again after I meet with the experts to discuss next steps with her,” Huyer said.

There’s more than 1,500 lbs. in the boat as reporter Kenneth Jackson quickly turns on the Bay of Quinte.

The deaths are currently still ruled an accident, but that could change after the tests conducted by the chief coroner.

The families have long thought someone was involved in the death of the fishermen.

To catch up on the full APTN investigation go to our special web page to watch the first three episodes.

Watch more: Secrets of the Bay

Meanwhile, work on the next episode is already underway.

As we await the results of Huyer’s tests, we continue to take a closer look at the location of where items belonging to the fishermen were found scattered throughout the bay after they disappeared. The location of some items appear to further contradict the police theory that it was an accidental drowning.

We have also discovered damage to the boat that may explain how they fishermen ended up in the water. On top of that, we zero in on witnesses whose statements to police don’t add up.

Look for Chapter 4 next season.

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