Whale boat: 'phenomenal' rescue prevented bigger tragedy

Officials praise 'amazing response' of locals in Canada

(Image credit: Albert Titian/Facebook )

A "phenomenal" rescue effort prevented a greater tragedy when a whale-watching boat sank off the coast of British Columbia in Canada on Sunday.

The accident, which killed five Britons, could have claimed the lives of more of the 27 people on board Leviathan II had it not been for the "amazing response" from locals around Tofino, officials believe.

Survivors say the boat turned over so quickly that the skipper could not send a Mayday call. But according to The Guardian, someone did manage to fire a flare, sparking a rescue effort by fishermen and pleasure boats that prevented an even greater tragedy.

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The flare was spotted by fishermen a few miles to the north, who sent out calls for help via radio and text messages. Boats quickly headed for the rescue area.

One of the rescuers said: "We saw three people in the water. One guy was clinging to the boat so we picked him [up] first. Then I heard these voices. There were two ladies in the water clinging to each other."

Officials are investigating what caused the tragedy. Locals believe that the boat was sunk by a powerful wave after some of the survivors told their rescuers the Leviathan II had suddenly tipped over. Others are speculating that the vessel may have hit a rock.

Canada's Transportation Safety Board says it could take many months to establish what happened. An Australian is still missing after the incident near Vancouver Island, the Australian government said.

Five Britons dead after whale- watching boat sinks in Canada

26 October

Five Britons died after a whale-watching boat sank off the coast of western Canada yesterday, the Foreign Office has confirmed.

The vessel capsized near Tofino on Vancouver Island with 27 passengers on board. The Coast Guard was able to rescue 21 people from the water, but one person remains missing.

"It is with deep sadness that I can confirm five British nationals have lost their lives," said Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond. "My thoughts are with the family and friends of all those affected by this terrible accident."

He said that consular staff were assisting relatives of those who had died and were working closely with Canadian authorities, the BBC reports.

A mayday signal was sent out from the ship at 5pm local time, but it remains unclear what caused the MV Leviathan II to capsize as weather conditions were reportedly clear and sunny.

This is the second deadly incident involving a boat owned by Jamie's Whaling Station since 1998. Canada's Transportation Safety Board has confirmed it is investigating the incident.

"Over the course of a season and years we take out thousands and thousands of people on these trips in conditions similar today," said John Forde, who runs a separate whale-watching company in the same area. "I have no idea what the issue was or what actually happened," he told Fox News.

Canada's prime-minister-designate, Justin Trudeau, offered his condolences to the victims' families and commended the response from the emergency services.

"I know first-hand of this coastal area's natural beauty and the many people who visit here from all around the world," said Trudeau, who won last week's election.

"My thoughts and prayers are with the passengers, the crew, and their families at this most difficult time. We will continue to offer them support in the days ahead."

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