Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Heroic rescues at Tofino whale watching accident

There's more news from Tofino about the accident that saw the sinking of Leviathan II, a 20-metre -long vessel used for whale watching. At least five people have been confirmed dead, and the search continues for a sixth who is presumed dead in the cold waters off Vancouver Island.
The only boat to see a signal flare from the accident site was a fishing boat with Ken Brown and Clarence Smith. These Ahousaht fishermen rushed to the scene and put out the call for help on their radio. CBC has an article here about the rescue.

updated later:

CTV's 11:00pm report on Tuesday pointed out that with the closure of Uclulet's Coast Guard base, the Coast Guard base at Powell River is responsible for the whole west coast. The rock where passengers were clinging is known locally to fishermen as "Bare Rock" but it's not labelled that on official charts. Only someone with local knowledge would know where that little islet actually was. Luckily, some of the Tofino Coast Guard were able to receive the radio call from Clarence Smith, CTV reported.

Or were they? An in-depth article from Ha-Shilth-Sa website has even more to say about the rescue. When Clarence Smith couldn't make himself understood to Tofino Coast Guard on Channel 16, he switched over to the radio frequency used by Ahousaht First Nation. Reception was good, and boats were there in minutes.

This incident is a real reminder to all small boat users to be prepared with your own boat's safety gear. It's easy to feel strong and capable and in control of my boat, but no one controls the weather or a rogue wave. It's been a while since our paddle group did safety practise, towing each other and practising wet re-entries and more. We'll have to at least do knot practise while watching a video, and learn more about search-and-rescue procedure.

The incident is also a reminder for paddlers to write to their newly-elected MPs (no postage stamp needed!) to call for support and restoring of Coast Guard services that have been closed or under-supplied.

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