5 dead, 1 missing after whale-watching boat sinks off British Columbia

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TOFINO, B.C. — One person remained missing Monday, one day after a whale-watching tour boat carrying 27 people capsized off the coast of Tofino, British Columbia.

Five people died and 21 were rescued, authorities said. Those killed were all British nationals, according to the British Columbia Coroners Service. They ranged in age from 18-76.

Among those rescued from the water, four people were in stable condition at area hospitals, according to a spokeswoman for the Vancouver Island Health Authority.

“Their looks tell the whole story,” Councillor Tom Campbell, with the Ahousaht First Nation, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

He reportedly watched as rescue workers brought survivors ashore in Tofino.

“You can’t describe looks on people that are lost. They look totally lost — shocked and lost,” CBC reported Campbell said.

Far from shore

The boat was a whale-watching vessel named the Leviathan II.

A witness told CBC the boat sank far enough from shore that it could not be seen.

“You could see the smaller boats going back and forth to try and help bring people back to shore,” Rami Touffaha told the CBC. “The waters weren’t choppy so I don’t see what could have caused the boat to sink, but you never know in these waters unfortunately,” he said.

Another tour operator, John Forde, was on a boat excursion with tourists when he heard the news, the CBC reported. He set course for the Leviathan II and arrived as the boat was nearly submerged.

“It was quite close to the rocks and you could still see part of the vessel above water,” he said.

‘A tragic day’

The Leviathan II is owned by Jamie’s Whaling Station & Adventure Centres, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre said.

The boat is a 65-foot cruiser, Jamie’s said on its website. It has three viewing decks — one upper and one lower and one in the back of the boat. It seats 46 passengers comfortably, the website said.

Jamie’s also offers other boating outings for visitors who want to watch bears or bathe in hot springs.

The company expressed sorrow over the tragedy in a statement on its website.

“It has been a tragic day. Our entire team is heartbroken over this incident and our hearts go out to the families, friends and loved ones of everyone involved. We are doing everything we can to assist our passengers and staff through this difficult time,” Jamie Bray said.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada will investigate the sinking, it said.

In 1998, another whale-watching boat belonging to Jamie’s was involved in a fatal incident, the safety board said.

That year, a boat operator and a passenger aboard the boat Ocean Thunder were tossed overboard and drowned in turbulent waters during a whale-watching trip, the board said.