At least five people died after a whale-watching boat with 27 people on board sank off Vancouver Island and a rescue mission remained active late Sunday, Canadian authorities say. The vessel made a mayday call late Sunday afternoon on what was a clear and sunny day in the tourist community that's a popular destination for whale watchers on Canada's West Coast, the Joint Rescue Coordination Center says. The boat was partially submerged 8 nautical miles west of Tofino, where the mayor describes the mood in the town as tense but commended residents for their aid in the rescue effort.
"Everybody's heart is just breaking for what's going on here and wanting to be as helpful as possible," the mayor says. A spokeswoman for the Island Health hospital agency says eight people have been admitted to Tofino General Hospital. Coast Guard vessels and search and rescue aircraft are searching for people who are still missing. John Forde, who runs another whale-watching operation, responded to the call for help and was told the search was for four or five missing people. "It's a pretty sad situation when you're doing a grid pattern to an area hoping to see something," he says. The ship that went down was the 65-foot Leviathan II, operated by Jamie's Whaling Station, says Forde.