Passenger crowding and a broadside wave may have capsized a whale watching off Tofino, British Columbia on Sunday leading to the death of six people, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada said late Tuesday.
The update was provided as part of the TSB’s ongoing investigation into the sinking of the passenger vessel Leviathan II. The vessel was carrying 24 passengers and 3 crew when it capsized and sank Sunday afternoon at 3:45 p.m. PDT during a whale watching excursion off Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island. So far, the bodies of five people have been recovered and a search continues for one missing person.
In its update, the TSB says that the its field investigation revealed that at the time of the incident, most of the passengers and crew were on the top deck of vessel on the port side. The vessel then broached and capsized when a wave approached the vessel from the starboard quarter, the TSB said. One life raft was deployed and another was activated along with two hand flares and a parachute rocket, the TSB added.
Since arriving in Tofino on Monday, TSB investigators have met with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which was involved in the initial rescue operation, and conducted interviews with crew and some of the survivors. The investigators were expected to examine the vessel on Wednesday to determine how to recover any electronics that may help in the investigation.
“They will also examine the vessel to understand its condition at the time of the accident,” the TSB said in its statement. “This will include reviewing stability information at the time of its construction, and examining any modifications that have been made since its initial construction that may have affected its stability. Further, the team will be examining the various weights and their position onboard at the time of the accident which will allow TSB naval architects to assess the vessel’s stability at the time of the occurrence. The team will also look at the maintenance and inspection records of the vessel, including life-saving appliances.”
The Canadian Coast Guard vessel Cape Ann has towed the Leviathan II to the north side of Vargas Island.
The TSB reiterates that the details that have been released is based on preliminary information and should not be used to draw any conclusions about what led to the accident.
The video below was filmed by one of the first boats on scene following the accident and shows the Leviathan II bobbing in the waves and a life raft deployed, although it does not appear that anyone is onboard.