TOFINO (NEWS 1130) – More details are emerging of a deadly boating accident near Tofino over the weekend. Mounties are now confirming two men from Alberta died. The RCMP says the men are 32 and 42-years-old, but their names and hometowns haven’t been released yet.
Staff Sgt. Annie Linteau says Tofino RCMP is investigating the capsizing. She says three of the five men who were on board the vessel when it took on water and capsized were treated and released from the hospital. Linteau adds the Transportation Safety Board is also investigating the cause of accident.
The captain of a catamaran was well-known in the community, according to the owner of a local air service involved in the rescue operation.
Jason Bertin with Tofino-based Atleo Air says it was one of his pilots who first spotted the sinking vessel after five people were forced to abandon ship. Only three survived. “It was a local charter fisherman. I know who he is… he was part of the community that was operating the boat,” he explains.
A distress call went out about 1:30 p.m., prompting the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Victoria to request help from local vessels in the area around Bartlett Island, northwest of Tofino, as well as to dispatch Coast Guard boats and an Air Force helicopter and search plane from CFB Comox. “Everybody is quite concerned. This is a member of our community and I think he would be out doing the same. He was a well-respected mariner,” Bertin adds.
The 8.5 metre charter boat was on a halibut fishing trip when it began to take on water and the crew called for help. “While the fishing boat was… on [a] cellphone with us, suddenly all communications went down,” says Sub Lieutenant Melissa Kai with the JRCC, adding private boats and planes were headed for the area within minutes. “All five passengers were recovered from the water from two vessels of opportunity that were closest to them,” Kai tells NEWS 1130.
The two victims were declared dead after they were handed over to Tofino Health Services at the dock.
This latest incident happened in the water near where the whale watching vessel Leviathan II capsized in October 2015, resulting in the deaths of six passengers.