Leviathan II. (Transportation Safety Board)

Coroner urges mandatory life-jackets in report on Tofino whale-watching tragedy

Six people died after whale watching vessel capsized in 2015

The deaths of six passengers aboard a vessel that capsized off the western coast of Vancouver Island in 2015 have been ruled accidental.

The BC Coroners Service released a report Tuesday carrying that cause of death, as well as two recommendations for Transport Canada aimed at preventing tragedies similar to the one in which a huge wave struck a whale-watching boat carrying 24 passengers and three crew capsized near Tofino on Oct. 25, 2015.

Investigating coroner Courtney Cote recommended that the federal department require life-jackets to be worn on the outer decks of vessels larger than 15 gross tons and carrying more than 12 passengers, and that more vessels be required to carry emergency-position-indicating radio beacons.

“We know that the ocean can be unforgivable and constantly the unexpected is happening,” Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns said. “Unfortunately, we can never be fully prepared for every circumstance on the water. Even the best prepared people can have accidents on the water.”

Corene Inouye, general manager with Jamie’s Whaling Station, the owner of the tour boat that flipped, said the company has already gone beyond those recommendations.

Inouye said the company requires all passengers to wear inflatable life-jackets on the interior and exterior decks.

She said many people don’t like to wear foam life-jackets because they are uncomfortable, while passengers can only wear the “keyhole”-style life-jackets, which you slip over your head, outside, because of a fear people could get trapped if they were inside and their boat flipped.

“Transport Canada needs to see if inflating life-jackets can be approved (as mandatory),” said Inouye, for all commercial passenger vessels.

Sam Vanderwalk, who owns Salmon Eye Charters in Ucluelet, balked at the life-jacket requirement.

“We don’t get any surprise hurricanes, everything is pretty much normal for the most part,” he said. “It’s not a shock if winds come up.”

In its report last June, the Transportation Safety Board found that a huge wave struck the boat at the starboard quarter, causing it to “pivot uncontrollably.” Five British citizens and one Australian were lost.

The board found that Jamie’s Whaling Station had not set out guidelines to address “the potential formation of breaking waves.”

In a statement, Transport Canada said it strongly encourages people to wear a lifejacket or other personal flotation device when on or near the water, and that it will review the coroner’s recommendations.

Black Press Media has also reached out to the lawyer representing some of the survivors and family members of the victims.

– with files from Karly Blats

Just Posted

UPDATE: Fire forces closures and delays on Highway 3 at Kootenay Pass

Motorists should detour using Kootenay Lake ferry

Evacuation alert issued for City of Kimberley

Three hours after an evacuation order was issued for the St. Mary Valley, an evacuation alert was issued for the nearby community of Kimberley.

Louise Baxter found after 72 hour search

Cranbrook hiker had been missing since Sunday, August 12, near Jumbo Pass.

UPDATE: Search for missing Cranbrook woman enters third day

The search for a Cranbrook woman missing in the Jumbo Pass area is entering its third day.

B.C. declares state of emergency as more than 560 wildfires rage

This is only the fourth state of emergency ever issued during a fire season

Happy birthday Boler: An anniversary gathering of the cutest campers in Winnipeg

Hundreds of the unique trailers in Winnipeg to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Manitoba invention

Wartime Wednesdays

Invermere’s Elinor Florence investigates stories from our wartime past

Canada’s tax system unfairly favours wealthy, poll of CRA auditors suggests

Four of every five respondents think loopholes and tax credits built into the system benefit the rich

Banff’s Sunshine ski resort upset with proposed guidelines from Parks Canada

The plan would allow for more visitors but wouldn’t let Sunshine build additional facilities

Conditions improve for battling northwest B.C. wildfires, minister says

‘Self-evacuated’ people fleeing smoke advised to go home

UPDATED: B.C. matching Red Cross donations for victims of wildfires

Donations being taken by many organizations, BC Hydro waiving bills

Woodpecker goes out with a bang, starts grassfire in B.C. city

Untimely death of woodpecker causes power outage in Cawston

Communities on evacuation alert in many areas of B.C. as wildfires flare

Warning was issued for 583-square-kilometre blaze that has charred Fraser Lake to Fort St. James

Most Read