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

Pacific Insight to close in April

The remaining employees at the Nelson automotive manufacturing facility to be laid off

Free naloxone kits, training offered in Nelson

The sessions run Jan. 17 and 24, 1 p.m. at the Salvation Army

Nominations open for Nelson’s Citizen of the Year

Recent winners include Kim Charlesworth and Helen Jameson

Nelson Hydro to increase urban rates 1.5 per cent, rural 2.94 per cent

Much of the increase will go to vegetation management

Leafs add 2 players at KIJHL trade deadline

Nelson also traded defenceman Tyson Soobotin to Castlegar

B.C. storm totals $37M in insured damages

The December storm wreaked havoc on B.C.’s south coast

Study finds more than half of food produced in Canada wasted

The study released Thursday is the world’s first to measure food waste using data from industry and other sources instead of estimates

Snowed-in Austrian nuns insist they’re staying put

Authorities have deployed heavy equipment to clear snow and fallen trees blocking the road to the monastery

Chiasson nets shootout winner as Oilers edge Canucks 3-2

Edmonton moves one point ahead of Vancouver

B.C. chief says they didn’t give up rights for gas pipeline to be built

Hereditary chief: no elected band council or Crown authority has jurisdiction over Wet’suwet’en land

Condo rental bans may be on way out with B.C. empty home tax

Many exemptions to tax, but annual declarations required

UPDATE: B.C. boy, aunt missing for three days

The pair are missing from Kamloops

Daredevil changes game plan to jump broken White Rock pier

Brooke Colby tells council daredevil event would help boost waterfront business

Most Read