US & Canada

Canada whale-watching: Leviathan II boat sinking kills five

Image of Leviathan II boat that sank near Vancouver Island - 26 October 2015 Image copyright Albert Titian/Facebook
Image caption Boats from a nearby First Nation community were the first to reach the Leviathan II

A whale-watching boat has sunk off the coast of British Columbia in western Canada, leaving at least five people dead.

The boat carrying 27 people sank near Tofino on Vancouver Island, the coastguard said. Sea conditions at the time were reported to be calm.

Emergency officials said 21 people had been rescued and one other person was still missing.

The nationalities of the victims are not yet known.

Melissa Kai, of the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Center in Victoria, British Columbia said the search-and-rescue efforts had "concluded", and the case of the missing person has been turned over to Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The boat, Leviathan II, made a mayday call late on Sunday afternoon before sinking about 8 miles (12km) west of Tofino.

Within 30 minutes, a rescue helicopter and boat were on the scene. Other boats in the area were already attending the scene.

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Media captionAmateur video shows the stricken whale-watching boat in the sea

The first rescue boats to arrive belonged to the nearby Ahousaht First Nation community, aboriginal councillor Tom Campbell said.

He said he saw the first survivors brought ashore.

"Their looks tell the whole story,'' he told the Associated Press (AP) news agency. "You can't describe looks on people that are lost. They look totally lost - shocked and lost.''

Valerie Wilson, of the Vancouver Island Health Authority, told the AP that the survivors had been admitted to Tofino General Hospital, and three of them had since been transferred elsewhere.

Canadian broadcaster CBC said the boat appeared to have sunk some distance from the shore.

The 20m (65ft) boat was operated by Jamie's Whaling Station and Adventure Centres.

Whale watching off British Columbia

  • Tofino is a popular surfing and whale watching resort near the Clayoquot area
  • Whale watching season in Tofino begins in March and ends in late October
  • The area's rugged coastline and national parks attract tens of thousands of tourists every year
  • Canada has over 200,000km (124,000 miles) of coastline, meaning it is one of the best locations for whale watching
  • The last whale watching accident in Tofino happened in 1998, when two people were killed

In a statement on the company's website, owner Jamie Bray said: "It has been a tragic day. Our entire team is heartbroken over this incident.

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Media captionThe BBC's Peter Bowes says the situation remains unpredictable

"We are doing everything we can to assist our passengers and staff through this difficult time. We are co-operating with investigators to determine exactly what happened."

Tofino is a popular destination for tourists wanting to spot humpback and Pacific Gray whales, and trips usually last up to three hours.

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