Did a rogue wave completely flip Canadian whale-watching boat?
The whale-watching boat, Leviathan II, sank so quickly off the coast of western Canada, that there was no time to send a mayday call, press reports have confirmed.
The tragedy took place on Sunday afternoon (25 October). Five Britons were killed when the boat, which was carrying 27 people, sank near Tofino, a popular tourist area on Vancouver Island. An Australian is still missing. British Columbia coroner's office said the victims, four men and one woman, ranged in age from 18 to 76. Other boats near the scene acted quickly and heroically, and 21 people were pulled from the icy waters.
The weather at the time of the accident was calm and sunny, but local sailors familiar with these waters of the Pacific Ocean say powerful currents, rogue waves and rocks are all potential hazards, even when the conditions look to be favourable.
The 65 foot, three-deck whale-watching boat was operated by Jamie's Whaling Station and Adventure Centre. Designed for tourists trips, it had both open and covered decks.The cruiser set off from the marina at Tofino on what should have been a relaxing, inspirational trip through the Clayoquot Sound to view whales in their natural environment.
What caused such a sudden sinking of this boat?
One possibility is that asudden, incredibly strong wave upturned Leviathan II.
This theory has been backed up by one eyewitness Alec Dick, from nearby Ahousaht First Nation, told Canada's Global News network the boat had been “flipped completely" by a wave.
Transportation Safety Board will be interviewing witnesses and survivors, looking into weather conditions on Sunday, as well as scouring the wreckage of the whale-watching boat for clues, and examining its maintenance history. The vessel, still submerged, has been towed from the scene to a nearby island where investigation work will be carried out.
The local community has been praised for its swift response to the devastating incident. The outcome could have been "a lot worse", said Lt Cmdr Desmond James of the Canadian Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in British Columbia.
Sadly this wasn’t the first fatal accident on the company's record. Another whale-watching boat operated by Jamie's Whaling Station and Adventure Centre capsized in 1998, killing two people.
The six-metre vessel was on a three-hour trip in the area of Plover Reef when it was hit by a large swell, which threw four people into the water.
Article: Alison Clements
Keep up to date with all the latest news on boatsandoutboards.co.uk