TSB says boat modifications led to fatal sinking near Tofino last year

TSB says boat modifications led to fatal sinking near Tofino last year

File photo.

File photo.

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) says various vessel modifications compromised safety to a sport fishing boat that sank near Tofino and claimed two lives last year.

The Catatonic left Tofino for nearby fishing grounds on April 30, 2017, with one operator and four passengers who all abandoned the boat when it took on water.

Search and Rescue vessels recovered the five from the water west of Vargas Island and two of the passengers, Alvin Beckley and Mike Cutler, were pronounced dead at the hospital where they were taken.

Beckley and Cutler were working on a construction crew at Tofino’s Pacific Sands Resort.

The investigation found the Catatonic’s stern sank primarily to water getting into the vessel’s pontoons and stern buoyancy compartments.

In its investigation report released Tuesday morning, the TSB says modifications to the Catatonic allowed water to enter the fish boxes and drain into the pontoon bilges.

The TSB says holes in the shipside and the bulkheads also gave water a chance to enter the pontoons and the stern buoyancy compartments.

The report says over the few hours it was anchored at various fishing spots, the boat was seen taking on water from the stern.

The investigation found the vessel’s power arrangement was also changed from two batteries operating separately to being charged and drained at the same time and act as the lone power source for the boat.

The TSB says when the battery was drained, the Catatonic was without a power supply for critical equipment such as the engines, bilge pumps and communication equipment.

A personal cellphone was used to call the Canadian Coast Guard to report the emergency and give its approximate location.

The investigation also found the vessel’s manual emergency position indicating radio beacon was not the approved type and was defective.

The report says the operator’s personal locator beacon was not activated since the operator was not familiar with it, and the boat’s very high-frequency radios and global positioning systems were both down because the power supply was depleted.

An hour and forty minutes went by after the stern sank to the time that everyone was recovered from the water.

Officials said the outcome would have been much worse without a huge response from rescue teams and more than 15 private boats and two private aircraft.

Andy NealAndy Neal

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