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One Still Missing In Whale Watching Capsize Accident

Albert Titian
A rescuer's photo of the capsized whale watching boat Leviathan II near Tofino, British Columbia.

More details are emerging from the capsizing of a whale watching boat off the west coast of Vancouver Island. Of the 27 passengers on board, five have been declared dead and searchers are trying to find one who is missing.

All of those who have died so far are British citizens, three of them tourists. The remaining two lived in Canada. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is currently conducting a dive into the overturned remains of the “Leviathan II” to check for the one remaining passenger who is unaccounted for.

The woman and four men who died range in age from 18 to 76.

The accident happened around 4:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon near Vargas Island, about nine miles from the small scenic town of Tofino, which is on the northern edge of Pacific Rim National Park. Ocean conditions were calm at the time. The passengers were taking part in a whale watching cruise, which is very popular tourist activity that brings thousands to the area every year.

The Canadian Coast Guard, RCMP, members of the nearby Ahousaht First Nation and private vessels all helped in the rescue effort. Many reported fishing dead bodies out of the ocean, helping stunned survivors, and retrieving personal items like purses, jackets and cameras that were floating near the overturned vessel.

The ship is owned by Jamie’s Whaling Station and Adventure Centre, one of many tour operators in the town of two thousand year-round residents, who depend heavily on tourism. The same company has been in two accidents before. In 1998 an employee and a German tourist died when a smaller vessel overturned. Two years earlier, an employee suffered severe head injuries after falling asleep and crashing into a nearby island while enroute to pick up passengers.

The Canadian Transportation Safety Board has sent investigators from both Ottawa and Vancouver to find out how the tragedy happened. It is expected their report will take several months to complete.