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‘Everybody is one big family’: Tofino mayor on whale-watching tragedy

Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne said the community has come together to help the survivors of the whale-watching tragedy on Sunday where at least five people died.

Eighteen people were admitted to the small hospital in Tofino, which only has 10 acute care beds. “Homes were opened up to get some of the overflow so those who don’t need the urgent medical attention were taken care of in peoples’ homes,” said Osborne.

“The community just open their hearts and their homes and do everything, everything they possibly can.”

Osborne said it will likely be days, weeks or months before they learn what happened to cause the boat to capsize.

“This is a coastal community, very much a marine-oriented community, and we understand that the ocean can be unpredictable and that things can happen and I’m sure there will be a lot of people asking those questions, but today will be mostly focused on the people themselves,” said Osborne.

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Members of a First Nations community are being credited with helping save the lives of several sightseers after the boat sank.

Boats from the Ahousaht First Nation were among the first on the scene and responded after seeing an emergency flare go up from the sinking boat.

“We had a couple of guys that were out doing a bit of fishing, and these guys saw this flare go up and they immediately responded,” Alec Dick with the Ahousaht First Nation told Global News. “They came across some people in the water.

“There was this boat with the nose, the bow, sticking out of the water. Some people on that boat made it into the life raft and the others were thrown into the water.”

Osborne said when there is a tragedy like this one, everyone comes together to help.

“When something like this happens, there’s no border between two communities, it’s just everybody comes together and so Marine Radio is really the network out on the ocean,” she said. “As soon as a call is made on a Marine VHF then the communities galvanize. And so Ahousaht, being the community that was closest and quickest and able to respond sent out at least 30 people and seven boats as I understand.”

“Any differences that anybody has are completely set aside. This is the time when everybody is one very big family, one very big network and we are all here for each other.”

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There is a community meeting in Tofino tonight at 5 p.m. for everyone who wants to attend.