A Wave Flipped a Boat. Within Minutes, 5 Were 'Unresponsive'

BC Coroners Service issues recommendations after 2015 capsizing; it says life jackets could've saved 6
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 7, 2018 10:15 AM CST
The bow of the Leviathan II is seen after the whale-watching boat capsized near Tofino, BC, in October 2015.   (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press via AP)
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(Newser) – The drowning deaths of six people thrown from a whale-watching vessel that capsized off Canada's West Coast in 2015 have been ruled accidental, but that's not stopping a coroner from proposing a big change to prevent such a tragedy from happening again. In a report out Tuesday, Courtney Cote of the British Columbia Coroners Service says life jackets were "the only variable" that could've prevented the deaths of five Britons and an Australian shortly after a wave flipped the Leviathan II, carrying 27 people, as "witness statements indicate five of the six were unresponsive within two to three minutes," per the Canadian Press. Though Transport Canada requires small commercial vessels to have life jackets accessible to all passengers, Cote now recommends they be worn by all on outer decks of boats larger than 15 gross tons and carrying more than 12 people.

Noting 20 minutes passed before the Leviathan II sent out a distress signal, "hindering [passengers'] chances of survival," Cote is also calling for a review of regulations to see if more vessels should be forced to carry emergency position radio beacons. A rep for Transport Canada, which encourages people to always wear a life jacket when on or near water, says the department will "consult with stakeholders on life jacket requirements and consider factors, including vessel size, to determine next steps," per a statement. Jamie's Whaling Station, owner of the Leviathan II, tells the Columbia Valley Pioneer that it has already surpassed the recommendations, though. It now requires mandatory radio check-ins every 30 minutes, an emergency radio beacon on each of its vessels, and that all of its passengers wear inflatable life jackets, reports Global News. (Read more Canada stories.)

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