41 passengers on board an Eagle Wing Tours catamaran had to be rescued after the vessel hit a rock and started taking on water at around 12:35 p.m.

The whale-watching boat was close to Whidbey Island in U.S. waters when the incident happened. The crew then purposely ran the boat aground on Smith Island while they waited for rescue crews to arrive.

The 60′ catamaran named “4 Ever Wild” was in shallow water as crews from the U.S. Coast guard, Washington Fish and Wildlife Police, other whale-watching boats and air support responded. Wearing life jackets, the tourists were loaded in groups onto smaller rescue boats then moved onto larger Coast Guard vessels in deeper water, before eventually being transported back to Victoria.

As they arrived back at Fisherman’s Wharf in Victoria, at least one passengers was checked out by BC Ambulance, but there were no significant injuries.

“We brought my mother in law here, she’s 80 years old, and she was quite in shock because we really hit the rock hard, but she’s fine, everybody’s fine I guess,” said boat passenger Myrjam Prince, who is visiting from Holland.

Prince praised the boat’s crew and said everyone remained calm after the boat hit the rock.

After the passengers were rescued some of the Eagle Wing crew members remained behind to help make arrangements to salvage the grounded catamaran.

“We are currently on site assessing at the moment.  We have the professionals at Cold Water Divers on scene to work with us to bring the vessel back to safe waters,” said Kerry Duff, Director of Sales and Marketing.

“However, we have not made a determination on a plan as of yet.”

The Pacific Whale Watch Association is thanking the U.S. Coast Guard and others for their assistance and all passengers were offered a full refund.

April Lawrence