Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigators on route
Once on site, the investigation team will collect any available data, interview crew members and passengers, review weather conditions and examine the wreckage and maintenance history of the vessel.
The team will also review the operation of the equipment and examine regulation requirements.
The investigator in charge will be Clinton Rebeiro, who has 25 years of experience in the marine industry.
British Foreign Secretary confirms five British nationals dead in incident
Just before 6:30 Monday morning, Britain’s Foreign Secretary confirmed the people who died on board the whale watching boat were all British.
In a statement, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said:
“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. Consular staff in British Columbia are supporting the family members of those who have died and we will remain in close contact with Canadian authorities as further information becomes available.”
The BC Coroner’s Service says of the 5 British nationals killed, 4 were male and 1 was female.
They ranged in age from 18 to 76,
Three were tourists, one was living on Ontario, and one was living in BC.
Their names have not been released yet.
The identity of the person unaccounted for is still unknown.
How it all unfolded
The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Victoria says the MV Leviathan II sunk on Sunday around 4 p.m.
It was then confirmed five people are dead, with one person still missing.
It happened near Plover Reefs, west of Vargas Island, which is a popular tourist area to view sea lions.
Lt.-Cmdr Desmond James with the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre confirmed when the search efforts concluded.
“Of the 27 individuals who were on board the vessel when it sank 21 were rescued, five were located without vital signs, and one remains missing.”
The missing persons case has been turned over to local RCMP and the Transportation Safety Board is deploying a team to investigate.
BC Ambulance says eight people are in Tofino General Hospital, one in serious condition.
An employee with Jamie’s Whale Watching in Tofino confirmed the boat belongs to them.
In a statement on their website, the tour company calls it a tragic day and writes they are heartbroken:
“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 cooperating 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.
We will provide further updates when information becomes available. – Jamie Bray, Owner”
Witness says vessel would have been equipped with lifejackets
Rami Touffaha owns Burnaby Tours and Charters and witnessed the accident. He described the rescue efforts he saw.
“All of Tofino’s resources were down at that dock. All of the ambulances that they have in town, the police officers, anybody in the community that looked like they had a boat that could be used was basically trying to go out to where the boat sank which is off of Meares Island, the closest island … to Tofino. Search and rescue boats were here, it seems like it was basically an all-out effort to get everyone back onto the dock safely.”
The MV Leviathan II was equipped with lifejackets, according to Touffaha.
“I know those boats are equipped with life jackets, because I’ve been on the whale watching tours before, but it’s just a matter of how quickly it went down and whether people had a chance to get their life jackets on.”
As soon as Brandon Hilbert with Tofino Water Taxi heard of the sinking, he jumped in his boat to aid in the rescue.
“Well its big seas today and we’ve got big tides. When the tide is going out against the swell it makes the waves bigger in some areas and Plover Reef is notorious for that, so they were going into one of the worst spots you could go in Tofino today. That boat is really top heavy, its got two levels to it, so if you get all of the passengers on the top level and if they all go to one side, then it’s going to have an effect on the boat.”
Sheilah Simpson happened to be at Government Dock and saw paramedics rush down to treat survivors coming in from the Coast Guard, as well local First Nations, and even local water taxis.
“They came flying in here with survivors, and the paramedics worked on the survivors. I saw someone didn’t make it. He was lying… the body was lying on the dock with a white sheet over him. I wanted to go down and put my hand on his chest, even though he was dead.”
“I watched the paramedics work on a lady and they brought her back to life, they saved her life, I have no doubt about it. They saved her life. When they put her in an ambulance and I heard them tell her her husband was alive, because probably in that chaos they didn’t know.”
She says emergency responders were putting survivors in cars with blankets on them to warm them up, and she could see the flares shooting up from beyond Vargas island to where they were trying to find anyone still there.
At the water’s edge someone has placed a hurricane lamp with a candle lit inside, holding out hope that that one missing person can be found.
It’s déjà vu for the whale watching company.
Operator Jamie’s Whaling Station experienced a similar accident, in the same place, more than a decade ago.
According to a report by the Transportation Safety Board, a crew member and passenger died, after a boat operated by Jamie’s Whaling capsized near Plover Reefs in 1998.
Tofino mayor says the scale of this tragedy is unprecedented
Mayor Josie Osborne says she is sending her thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families.
“Unfortunately from time to time Tofino has been no stranger to incidents that have involved pleasure craft or fishing vessels, and when lives are lost at sea, it’s a tragedy.”
Community comes together
A community gathering and potluck is planned for late this afternoon in Tofino.
According to the notice, all are welcome to come, bring food and to share dishes.
It will run from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
RCMP dive team continue search for one person still missing:
CKNW’s Laura Baziuk is on the scene in Tofino and captured this footage of the dive team preparing to continue their search efforts today.