Monday 23 January 2017

Father and son among two killed on whale-watching tragedy off coast of Canada

Published 27/10/2015 | 12:45

David Thomas and his 18-year-old son Stephen
David Thomas and his 18-year-old son Stephen
The MV Leviathan ll sinking off Vancouver Island Photo: Albert Titian

Two of the Britons who died after a whale-watching boat sank off the coast of Canada have been named.

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David Thomas, 50, and his 17-year-old son Stephen, from Swindon, Wiltshire, were among five Britons killed when the boat overturned near Vancouver Island on Sunday, sources said.

Stephen's mother Julie was among 21 people rescued from the stricken vessel, Leviathan II, which was carrying 24 passengers and three crew.

READ MORE: Whale-watching tragedy: Survivor says boat was hit by huge wave

The British victims included another male tourist and two British nationals who lived in Canada - one woman from British Columbia and a man from Ontario, according to the British Columbia coroner's office.

READ MORE: Five Britons killed while whale watching in Canada

A 27-year-old man from Sydney is missing, while his girlfriend's father is reportedly among the dead.

The boat, run by Jamie's Whaling Station, a local tour company, got into difficulty eight miles from the small town of Tofino, around 150 miles west of Vancouver.

The company's owner Jamie Bray said people were "traumatised" and in "disbelief" at what had happened.

He said: "This vessel has operated for 20 years with an absolutely perfect safety record. This is something just totally out of the blue.

READ MORE: Five Britons killed in Canadian whale boat tragedy

"We just don't understand and we won't know the answers until the Transportation Safety Board finishes their investigations."

Local fisherman Clarence Smith said one survivor believed a wave had capsized the boat and a pregnant woman and another woman with a broken leg were among those rescued.

"The lady was saying that a wave just capsized them," Mr Smith said. "That's why there weren't any communications on the radio, no mayday."

The boat began to take on water around two hours and fifteen minutes after it took off on its whale watching tour, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada said. Investigators will now examine the wreckage of the vessel, its maintenance history and and consider the weather conditions at the time.

Following the incident Mr Bray said passengers on the boat were not required to wear life jackets.

"On larger vessels we're not required to have the passengers wear the life jackets. On smaller open boats they are," he said.

The company suffered a previous fatal accident, with a boat becoming swamped and rolling to an angle in 1998, killing the captain and a tourist, and an incident two years earlier when a captain suffered head injuries, but survived, after falling asleep and running a boat aground.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said his thoughts were with the family and friends of those affected by Sunday's incident, while Canadian prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau said he was "shocked and saddened" by the deaths.

Locals held a dinner on Monday evening at the Tofino community hall to remember those affected by the tragedy.

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