The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) has issued three recommendations to improve passenger safety after a deadly capsizing of a whale-watching boat off the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Five Britons and one Australian died when the Leviathan II overturned near Tofino B.C. on Oct. 25, 2015. There were 24 passengers and three crew members on board. The vessel was owned by Jamie’s Whaling Station.
The first recommendation is for Transport Canada to require commercial passenger vessel operators on the west coast of Vancouver Island to identify those areas and conditions conducive to the formation of hazardous waves.
The Board is also recommending that Transport Canada require passenger vessel operators across the country to identify hazards and implement strategies to reduce the risks.
The third recommendation is to reduce response time in the event of an accident. The TSB wants Transport Canada to require all commercial passenger vessels operating beyond sheltered waters to carry emergency radio beacons to indicate their position.
According to the report, it took 45 minutes after the Leviathan II capsized before search-and-rescue authorities became aware of the capsizing.
The TSB investigation determined that sea conditions in the area were favourable to the formation of breaking waves. However, none of those waves were seen when the vessel first approached the area to observe sea lions.
After the master became aware of the large wave approaching the starboard quarter, he tried to turn the vessel to minimize the impact but the wave struck the vessel before that could be effective. The crew did not have time to transmit a distress call before the boat capsized, the report said. The vessel also did not have the means to automatically send a distress call.
The report said it was only by chance that the crew retrieved and activated a parachute flare. The flare alerted nearby Ahousaht First Nation fisherman who got to the scene first, alerted search-and-rescue authorities and began recovering survivors from the water.
Days after the capsizing, the TSB said many passengers were standing on the top deck on one side of the ship when the large wave hit the opposite side. The boat rolled, sending passengers and crews into the water.
“After impact and broaching, capsizing took only an instant,” Clinton Rebeiro, the investigator in charge for the TSB, said Wednesday.
“One of the deck hands and most of the passengers were thrown into the water, many sliding down the floor of the deck and striking objects along the way. Others were trapped underneath or even inside the vessel before eventually escaping.”
None of the passengers was wearing lifejackets and Rebeiro said some passengers ingested seawater, oil and fuel while they struggled to keep their head above water. Others clung to objects from the boat.
Rebeiro said offshore waves travelling over a rising ocean floor and meeting opposing tides can cause waves to become higher and steeper increasing the likelihood that they will break.
“But exactly when is almost impossible to predict,” Rebeiro said. He also said the nature of the sea and the process that combine to form breaking waves are complex.
Rebeiro said the height of the wave was about the height of the top of the vessel’s bridge.
According to the board, if Transport Canada had made previous safety recommendations from TSB mandatory, Leviathan II passengers may have have been rescued faster.
At least 15 survivors and several family members of the six victims have filed lawsuits against Jamie’s Whaling Station.
Watch the release of the report below:
LIVE: The Transportation Safety Board is releasing it's report into the fatal capsizing of whale-watching boat Leviathan II of Tofino in 2015.
Posted by CHEK News: Official Page on Wednesday, June 14, 2017
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