Rescue efforts have been called off for 12 fishermen still missing after a Spanish fishing boat sank in the frigid Northern Atlantic, Spain's government confirmed on Thursday.
The shipwreck's three survivors are en route to Newfoundland, Canada alongside nine of their colleagues' corpses.
In total, 21 people are presumed dead after the shipwreck that took place on Tuesday.
For 36 hours, emergency services tried to find the rest of the crew, but 10-meter (32-foot) waves, freezing temperatures, and reduced visibility hampered the mission.
The boat sank around 450 kilometers (280 miles) off the Canadian coast, in an area notorious for storms, strong currents, and freezing weather. The tragedy took place north of where the Titanic ocean liner famously sank in 1912.
The three survivors were found clinging to a life raft and suffering from hypothermia by another fishing boat that was operating nearby.
According to Spanish daily El Pais, only the ship's captain, his nephew, and a fisherman originally from Ghana survived.
"Even though the meteorological conditions weren't great, they weren't extreme either," said Javier Touza, head of the fishing cooperative in the Galician city of Vigo to which the sunken ship belongs.
“And the boat was modern. It would be helpful to talk to the captain to understand what happened, but the survivors were all in shock and they've only been able to talk to family members briefly,” he added.
The rest of the crew members, who hailed from Spain, Ghana, and Peru, leave behind heartbroken families, friends, and communities.
Luis Planas, Spain's fisheries minister, said the shipwreck was the "biggest tragedy" in Spain's fishing sector in 38 years, when 26 fishermen died after their boat sank off the coast of Morocco.
"What happened in Canada underscores that this is an extremely risky activity," he added.