Leviathan II. (Transportation Safety Board)

Coroner urges mandatory life-jackets in report on Tofino whale-watching tragedy

Six people died after whale watching vessel capsized in 2015

The deaths of six passengers aboard a vessel that capsized off the western coast of Vancouver Island in 2015 have been ruled accidental.

The BC Coroners Service released a report Tuesday carrying that cause of death, as well as two recommendations for Transport Canada aimed at preventing tragedies similar to the one in which a huge wave struck a whale-watching boat carrying 24 passengers and three crew capsized near Tofino on Oct. 25, 2015.

Investigating coroner Courtney Cote recommended that the federal department require life-jackets to be worn on the outer decks of vessels larger than 15 gross tons and carrying more than 12 passengers, and that more vessels be required to carry emergency-position-indicating radio beacons.

“We know that the ocean can be unforgivable and constantly the unexpected is happening,” Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns said. “Unfortunately, we can never be fully prepared for every circumstance on the water. Even the best prepared people can have accidents on the water.”

Corene Inouye, general manager with Jamie’s Whaling Station, the owner of the tour boat that flipped, said the company has already gone beyond those recommendations.

Inouye said the company requires all passengers to wear inflatable life-jackets on the interior and exterior decks.

She said many people don’t like to wear foam life-jackets because they are uncomfortable, while passengers can only wear the “keyhole”-style life-jackets, which you slip over your head, outside, because of a fear people could get trapped if they were inside and their boat flipped.

“Transport Canada needs to see if inflating life-jackets can be approved (as mandatory),” said Inouye, for all commercial passenger vessels.

Sam Vanderwalk, who owns Salmon Eye Charters in Ucluelet, balked at the life-jacket requirement.

“We don’t get any surprise hurricanes, everything is pretty much normal for the most part,” he said. “It’s not a shock if winds come up.”

In its report last June, the Transportation Safety Board found that a huge wave struck the boat at the starboard quarter, causing it to “pivot uncontrollably.” Five British citizens and one Australian were lost.

The board found that Jamie’s Whaling Station had not set out guidelines to address “the potential formation of breaking waves.”

In a statement, Transport Canada said it strongly encourages people to wear a lifejacket or other personal flotation device when on or near the water, and that it will review the coroner’s recommendations.

Black Press Media has also reached out to the lawyer representing some of the survivors and family members of the victims.

– with files from Karly Blats

Just Posted

Terrace teen on life support after contracting serious viral infection

Sebastian Stewart was medically evacuated to Vancouver General Hospital on April 25

UPDATE: No charges for Terrace Mounties in relation to 2016 suicide

RCMP officers used Tasers to try to apprehend Nicolas Jeppesen before he took his own life

Police ramping up for long weekend

Terrace RCMP partnering with other agencies to add extra enforcement

Sulphur dioxide pollution over Kitimat could be eliminated after 2024

New process will eliminate SO2 as a byproduct

Kitimat, Terrace home sales up from 2017

Optimism surrounding a potentially positive LNG decision one of the factors

VIDEO: After the floods, comes the cleanup as Grand Forks rebuilds

Business owners in downtown wonder how long it will take for things to go back to normal

Rachel Notley to skip premiers conference to focus on pipeline deal

Kinder Morgan has ceased all non-essential spending on the Trans Mountain pipeline project until it receives assurances

B.C. tech company will power Uber Elevate

Moli and Uber announce research and development partnership.

UPDATE: Woman dies in ocean accident near Tofino hours before daughter’s wedding

“We are so thankful to everyone who helped our mom.”

Olympian sues USA Swimming, saying it failed to protect her

Ariana Kukors Smith alleges her former coach Sean Hutchison began grooming her for sexual abuse at the age of 13

Defence minister thanks troops for B.C. flood relief work

Harjit Sajjan says not only was military response quick, support from locals has been ‘tremendous’

Couple survives being buried in mudslide on B.C. highway

The couple, from Saskatchewan, were en route to Nelson when a tree fell in their path

‘So grateful:’ Injured Bronco hockey player glad he’s alive, works on recovery

Ryan Straschnitzki was badly hurt in the accident: a spinal injury, broken ribs, a broken collar bone, and punctured lung

PHOTOS: Floodwaters rise and fall in Grand Forks

The flood-ravaged Kootenay-Boundary region begins to heal

Most Read