By Carlena Knight
An Antiguan national linked to an apparent drug seizure in Canada – before apparently stealing a yacht to flee the country – is said to still be missing at sea.
Simons was one of two men charged after Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canadian Coast Guard seized 556 kilograms of cocaine from a burning sailboat off the coast of Nova Scotia on August 29.
RCMP said in a news release that police and the coast guard were tipped off about a suspicious vessel.
A sailboat matching the description was located off Nova Scotia, but as officers approached, they saw smoke coming from the boat and a rapidly spreading fire.
Two people who were aboard the boat were taken into custody on a coast guard vessel. RCMP officers seized packages floating in the sailboat’s cabin believed to contain cocaine.
At the time, Simons was wanted by police in relation to a federal investigation and is now facing charges of conspiracy to import narcotics.
The next day, Simons escaped police custody at Dartmouth General Hospital where he had been taken in for an assessment.
Up to that time, law enforcement had no idea where Simons was but he is now suspected of stealing a yacht, named Secret Plans, and sailing it into a hurricane.
The owner of the boat Gary Collins told Salt Wire Network that he had received a call from the US Coast Guard last Friday asking if he was sailing through the eye of Hurricane Larry. It was then that Collins realised his boat had been stolen.
He said he believes Simons was the person who stole his boat and set sail for down south.
Simons, 32, has a Royal Yachting Association yacht master certificate, which is a “highly respected qualification worldwide, proving your experience and competence as a skipper,” according to its website.
Collins said since his family only used the former racing boat for near-coast cruising, it didn’t have a life raft, but it was fully equipped with food and water which would’ve lasted a person at least a week at sea.
The beacon was about 630 kilometres southeast of Halifax when it was activated. Eventually, the coast guard stopped receiving a signal from the beacon as its battery had died.
Searches for the boat have however been suspended following two unsuccessful searches on Saturday.
It was however mentioned that planes involved in the search party saw a flare consistent with flares from the stolen boat but couldn’t locate the vessel.
Many have begun fearing the worst – that neither the boat or the lone sailor have survived the storm.
“While I’m sad and angry that my boat is gone, I’m also sad that someone has probably lost their life in the hurricane,” said Collins.
Simons is still reported as missing, according to the latest reports from Canadian officials. He is described as a black man, 5ft 9ins tall, weighing around 160 pounds with black hair in dreadlocks and dark brown eyes. He was last seen wearing black shorts and was barefoot.