ABOVE: A crew member from the sister ship of the one that capsized off Vancouver Island over the weekend, is speaking out about the loss of three men and the decision that saved a fourth man’s life. Jill Bennett explains.
Three men died on Saturday after a commercial fishing boat sunk off the coast of Estevan Point, about 50 kilometres north of Tofino.
One person survived when he was plucked from the life raft onto a passing cruise ship.
“They were good, hardworking family-loving men who unfortunately aren’t going to make it home tonight,” said one fisherman who did not want to be identified. He has worked on both the Caledonian and its sister ship, the Viking Storm. The Caledonian is the boat that capsized.
Captain Wes Hegglend and two other crew members died when the Caledonian experienced what is believed to be some kind of stabilization issue and capsized.
The crew member who survived has not been identified but he was the only one wearing a life jacket.
“According to the sole survivor, it capsized at about 3:30 in the afternoon, but it remained afloat,” said Paul Tasker, the Maritime Rescue Coordinator with the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre. “He was on the overturned hull for a while and then when it sank at 10:30 he was in the water for quite a while. He managed to climb into the lift raft that had come free from the vessel when it sank.”
Around 1:30 Sunday morning, two flares were spotted and the survivor was picked up by a coast guard vessel and taken to a cruise ship in the area. He was then taken to hospital with mild hypothermia, but was alert and talking.
In a strange and sad twist, this fisherman likely saved the life of one of his crew members when he refused a request for him to join the Caledonian.
“So they put a kibosh on him going over to the Caledonian and he came back and replaced me on my boat,” said the fisherman. “And if I hadn’t of gotten off the boat that I fish on, my friend would have probably been sailing on that boat and there’s a chance he wouldn’t be here today.”
Sadly, another friend stepped in and he was one of the men who died.
In a statement to Global News, Daniel C. Occhipinti, the General Counsel & Director of Government Affairs for Pacific Seafood, said:
This is a devastating tragedy for our entire Pacific Seafood family and our community. Right now we are focused on our people and their families. We do not yet know what caused this tragedy but we will do a full investigation to find out what happened. We appreciate everything the Canadian Coast Guard has done to help rescue and search for our crew. Please pray for the families who lost a loved one.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada confirmed they are investigating.