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.