Leviathan II whale-watching tragedy caused by breaking wave

Article by BBC.com

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The crew of a whale-watching boat tried and failed to avoid a large breaking wave that sank the vessel, killing six off the Canadian coast.


Image credit CBC.ca

Five Britons were among those who died when the the Leviathan II capsized near Tofino, British Columbia, in 2015.

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) has released a report with guidance on how to prevent such accidents.

They include having tour boat operators do more to manage hazards like the breaking wave that led to the tragedy.

Clinton Rebeiro, who headed the investigation, said the vessel’s crew checked weather conditions before departing in October 2015 and found them “acceptable”.

Passengers were also given a safety briefing.

Once on the south-east side of the Plover Reefs, Leviathan II was operating in an area where the conditions were favourable for the formation of breaking waves.

At about 15:00 local time (19:00 GMT) “the master and the deckhand heard a noise. The master reached for the throttles to turn the vessel and minimise the impact but the wave struck Leviathan II’s starboard quarter before his actions could be effective”, Mr Rebeiro said.

“It rose up, pivoting uncontrollably on the wave, leaving it beam on, or sideways, to the wave and thus vulnerable to capsizing.”

Capsizing took only an instant. Most of the passengers were thrown into the frigid sea water, skidding down the deck and striking objects along the way. Some became trapped underneath the vessel. No one was wearing life-jackets.

“There’s no doubt in this case that had the passengers been wearing life jackets or some sort of personal floatation device, it would definitely have helped many who struggled to stay afloat in the water and it might have prevented some of the fatalities,” said TSB chair Kathy Fox.