A Canadian whale-watching tour boat has sunk off the coast of Vancouver Island with 27 passengers aboard. Rescue officials were saying yesterday at least five people had died and an Australian man was still missing.
The boat went down near Tofino on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, the BBC reported. Sea conditions at the time were reported to be calm.
Nationalities of the victims were not known last night but this morning all five of the dead were reported to be British nationals. The man who is still missing, feared dead, is a 27-year-old Australian from Sydney.
The boat, Leviathan II, made an emergency call and then appears to have capsized or sunk. Photos of it bobbing in the water semi-submerged were circulating on social media.
Night fell soon after the calamity occurred and the death toll would have been higher, had not other boats arrived quickly on the scene to help the Coast Guard with the rescue effort. Vessels from the local Ahousat indigenous community turned up fast, with one taking eight people aboard, according to the Vancouver Sun newspaper.
A report on ABC News said the sunken vessel was operated by Jamie’s Whaling Station and Adventure Centres. The report added that a boat operated by the same company sank near Tofino in 1998, killing the ship’s captain and a German tourist. The boat in that incident was found to have been hit by a big ocean swell, and to have rolled.
According to a report in the Guardian, an investigation was also launched in 1996, after another Jamie’s Whaling Station craft ran aground at full speed when the skipper fell asleep at the controls. No one died in that incident.
Tofino is a popular destination for tourists wanting to see humpback and Pacific Gray whales. Nearby natural hot springs and old-growth rainforest give the area strong eco-tourism appeal.
Written by Peter Needham