Canadian Whale Watching Boat Sinks : Five Dead, One Missing

Photo: Albert Titian/Facebook

Photo: Albert Titian/Facebook

MV Leviathan II, a 65′ whale watching boat, sank late yesterday afternoon, off the port of Tofino on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. 27 were aboard when the vessel sank. Five are reported to have died and one person is still missing. Of the 21 rescued, 18 were sent to a local hospital.

Leviathan II is owned by Jamie’s Whaling Station & Adventure Centres and is one of the largest whale watching vessels in port Tofino. The boat sank near Plover Reefs, west of Vargas Island. The area is said to be a seal rookery. There is speculation that the boat hit a rock while observing seals. There are reports of a “mayday” call from the stricken vessel. The first responders on site were boats from the Ahousaht First Nation, whose members saw a distress flare. They were soon joined by local fishermen and the Canadian Coast Guard with a rescue boat and helicopter.

The last fatal whale watching accident from Tofina also occurred off Plover Reef in 1998 when one passenger and the boat operater died when the boat, Ocean Thunderer, swamped. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada noted in their report: “After watching whales, the operator decided to show the passengers marine life in the vicinity of Plover Reefs. While in that area, the boat was swamped and broached by a large swell, which threw all the occupants into the turbulent water. ”  Ocean Thunderer was also operated by Jamie’s Whaling Station.

Thanks to Alaric Bond and Phil Leon for contributing to this post.

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2 Responses to Canadian Whale Watching Boat Sinks : Five Dead, One Missing

  1. James Conner says:

    This from The Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/28/freak-wave-caused-whale-watching-boat-tragedy-say-canada-investigators):

    “We know that most passengers were on the top deck on the port side,” said Marc-André Poisson, the board’s director of marine investigations. “This would have raised the centre of gravity, affecting the vessel’s stability. We also know that the sea conditions were such that a wave approached from the starboard quarter … We know that the vessel broached and then capsized.”

    Earlier in the day the British Columbia coroner said that all of those killed had been standing on the open top deck of the 20-metre long vessel, which had sailed from the small resort town of Tofino on a routine sightseeing trip.

    *****

    According to the Victoria Times Colonist, the aluminum boat was built in 1981 and powered by two diesel engines. The vessel has been towed to a spot near land, so it probably will be refloated, cleaned up, and available for stability tests.