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Report into Tofino whale-watching tragedy recommends changes to safety practices

June 14, 2017 6:56 PM
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Report into Tofino whale-watching tragedy recommends changes to safety practices

6 people died and 21 were rescued when the whale-watching boat capsized in 2015

Tour boat operators need do a better job identifying hazardous waves, according to an investigation into the deadly capsizing of the Leviathan II whale-watching boat near Tofino, B.C., in 2015.

The recommendation is one of three made by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada on Wednesday.

A plaque has been installed at Tofino's main dock in memory of the six people who died when the Leviathan II capsized. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

"It's time for Transport Canada to work with whale-watching companies and other passenger vessel operators to ensure the experience they offer is not just thrilling, but as safe as it can be," said TSB chairperson Kathy Fox.

"When people find themselves in cold water, every second counts. Our recommendations today are aimed at putting in place measures to avoid accidents in the first place, and to expedite rescue efforts if an accident occurs."

The TSB is also recommending that passenger vessel operators across Canada be required to adopt risk-management processes to identify hazards and the strategies to deal with them.

The third recommendation calls for all commercial passenger vessels operating beyond sheltered water to carry emergency locator beacons which would automatically activate in the event of a capsizing.

Search and rescue responders were not made aware of the accident until 45 minutes after it happened.

The board stopped short of recommending tour boat passengers be required to wear life-jackets.

"The risk management process should indicate when to wear life-jackets," said Fox. "There's no doubt that if the passengers had been wearing life-jackets...there may have been fewer fatalities, but wearing life-jackets could be dangerous inside the cabin."

Court documents filed last year by the vessel's owner in response to a civil lawsuit describe the event as an "act of God" that could not have been reasonably predicted.


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