Canada: Catamaran sinks off British Columbia with 5 aboard, 2 dead

An 8.5m power catamaran sinks near Tofino, B.C., off the west coast of Vancouver Island. Five total on board and spent 1.5 hours in the water: two died and three others were treated for exposure. This is the second fatal boating accident in this area in recent years.

Published 6 years ago, updated 4 years ago

Bartlett Island

Officials say two people are dead and three others were treated and released after their catamaran sunk near Vancouver Island on Sunday afternoon.

The Coast Guard responded to a distress call approximately 1:20 p.m. (PDT) of an 8.5-metre power catamaran taking on water in the vicinity of Bartlett Island, north of Tofino, B.C., on Sunday afternoon. A spokesperson at the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre (JRCC) in Victoria said that they were in real-time contact with the stricken vessel until it went down.

“We were able to talk with the vessel, live, to confirm that the five passengers were abandoning into the water,” said Sub-Lt. Melissa Kia with the JRCC. “While the boat was attempting to get in a better position to speak with us via cell phone, it lost communications with the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre.”

Multiple Coast Guard rescue boats, a Royal Canadian Air Force helicopter, and an aircraft from CFB Comox were dispatched to search for the five occupants of the vessel.

Two commercial float planes also responded to the emergency broadcast from the Coast Guard notifying local mariners of the situation. According to the JRCC, one of the float planes spotted the people in the water and was able to direct rescue personnel to them.

All five people were pulled from the water by nearby vessels (vessels of opportunity, not Coast Guard) and taken to shore, but officials soon said that two of them had died. Three others were treated for exposure and released in stable condition.

The Coast Guard reported that the sea state was between two and three metres on Sunday afternoon. Visibility was good. The water temperature in the area was between eight and 10 degrees (Celsius).

Officials have not confirmed whether the victims were wearing life jackets or survival suits.

An investigation has been launched by the Transportation Safety Board but that agency has yet to announce its findings. It is unclear why the boat was taking on water.

All five aboard the catamaran were known locally in Tofino and officials say that they were likely sport fishing at the time of the accident.

This is the second fatal accident in this area in recent years. A 20-metre whale watching vessel with 27 passengers on board capsized in this area in October 2015. Six people were killed. Conditions on the day of that incident were reported to be similar to Sunday’s sinking.

CBC News

News 1130

CKNW Vancouver

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