Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Home News UK

Teenager and man, 76, among five Britons to die in whale-watching boat tragedy

Published 26/10/2015

A whale watching boat with 27 aboard has sunk off Vancouver Island
A whale watching boat with 27 aboard has sunk off Vancouver Island

Five Britons including a teenager and a 76-year-old man have died after a whale watching boat they were on capsized off the west coast of Canada.

The boat, which was carrying 27 people, turned over near Vancouver Island on Sunday afternoon local time, killing a woman and four men, all of them British.

Twenty one people were rescued from the stricken vessel, while one person remains missing.

Barbara McLintock, from the British Columbia coroner's office, confirmed that the British victims included three male tourists and two British nationals who lived in Canada - one woman from British Columbia and a man from Ontario.

The victims included an 18-year-old man and another man aged 76, she added.

Video footage online showed the boat Leviathan II, b obbing vertically in the water, with what appears to be a large section of it submerged below the waves after it went down at around 4pm local time (11pm GMT) on Sunday.

The boat, run by Jamie's Whaling Station, a local tour company, got into difficulty eight miles from the small town of Tofino, around 150 miles (250km) west of Vancouver.

The Associated Press reported that the company has suffered a previous fatal accident, with a boat capsizing in 1998, killing the captain and a tourist.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond had earlier announced that the dead were British, saying: "It is with deep sadness that I can confirm five British nationals have lost their lives when the whale watching boat they were on sank off western Canada on Sunday.

"My thoughts are with the family and friends of all those affected by this terrible accident."

The Canadian prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau said he was "shocked and saddened" by the deaths, adding: "We thank all those, including our search and rescue officials, who responded swiftly with courage and professionalism.

"I know first-hand of this coastal area's natural beauty and the many people who visit here from all around the world.

"My thoughts and prayers are with the passengers, the crew, and their families at this most difficult time. We will continue to offer them support in the days ahead."

Lieutenant Paul Trenholm, from the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in British Columbia, said that people from nearby indigenous First Nation villages had been first on the scene.

He said: "Without the assistance of the First Nation community this could have been much worse."

Eyewitness Alec Dick, from nearby Ahousat, told Canada's Global News network: "They got swamped by a wave, it flipped their boat completely."

He added: "Our faster boats went out there, there were four of our local boats that transported 24 (people) to Tofino and some of them needed medical attention."

Asked if the people on board had had time to put life jackets on, he added: "I don't think they had time to do anything."

On its website, Jamie's Whaling Station says it offers tours in Tofino and Ucluelet on "state of the art high-speed, exhilarating zodiac-style vessels" for those who crave adventure, or, it adds, who wish to "relax aboard the west coast's largest cruiser style whale watching vessels, the 65ft Leviathan II in Tofino or Lady Selkirk in Ucluelet".

The boats can hold up to 47 passengers who can "watch whales in their natural environment".

In a statement posted on the website, company owner Jamie Bray wrote: ''It has been a tragic day. Our entire team is heartbroken over this incident and our hearts go out to the families, friends and loved ones of everyone involved.

''We are doing everything we can to assist our passengers and staff through this difficult time.

''We are co-operating with investigators to determine exactly what happened.

''In the meantime, we want to extend our most sincere thank you to the first responders, rescue personnel, and everyone from Tofino and the local First Nations communities who assisted with the response efforts."

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph