VANCOUVER: Five British tourists are confirmed dead and one person is missing after a tour vessel from a Tofino whale-watching company sank Sunday afternoon with 27 people on board.British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed the nationality of the victims in a statement early Monday morning, expressing deep sadness about the deaths.“My thoughts are with the family and friends of all those affected by this terrible accident. Consular staff in British Columbia are supporting the family members of those who have died and we will remain in close contact with Canadian authorities as further information becomes available,” Hammond said.Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau has also issued a statement, saying he was “shocked and saddened” to hear of the boat’s sinking, and thanking those who helped with the rescue efforts.“I know firsthand of this coastal area’s natural beauty and the many people who visit here from all around the world. My thoughts and prayers are with the passengers, the crew, and their families at this most difficult time. We will continue to offer them support in the days ahead,” Trudeau said.An official with the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre said that 21 people were rescued before the search was called off late Sunday night. The missing person’s case has been handed over to the RCMP.Fishing guide Lance Desilets was out on the water until sundown, helping to recover debris from the crash. He said the boat was capsized so just the bow was visible, sticking about 3.5 metres out of the water.
Two lifeboats were floating nearby, completely empty.”There was lots of personal belongings floating around, purses, backpacks, cameras, that sort of thing. Pretty grim,” he said.An employee at Jamie’s Whaling Station and Adventure in Tofino confirmed it was one of their boats and said the company is focused on rescuing passengers and crew.The company’s owner, Jamie Bray, issued a statement early Monday morning about the disaster.“It has been a tragic day. Our entire team is heartbroken over this incident and our hearts go out to the families, friends and loved ones of everyone involved,” he said.“We are doing everything we can to assist our passengers and staff through this difficult time.”
Bray thanked first responders and members of the local First Nations and Tofino communities for helping with the rescue efforts, and said his company is cooperating with investigators to determine what happened.A lone candle at the edge of Tofino’s wood piling First Street Dock flickered in the darkness early Monday.“I saw them save someone’s life. They saved a woman’s life, I’m sure of it,” said Sheila Simpson, who was strolling on the dock with her husband when rescue boats roared up carrying people from the whale watching vessel.“One didn’t make it,” said Simpson about a man whose body was covered by a blanket.Simpson, who lives on Denman Island, said she was in Tofino visiting a friend at the local hospital when she saw people arriving in boats and ambulance and police at the dock.