May 9, 2019 6:22 pm
Updated: May 10, 2019 1:35 pm

Dozens of tourists rescued after B.C. whale watching boat takes on water off U.S. coast

WATCH: Passengers aboard a Victoria-based whale watching boat had to be rescued Thursday afternoon after striking a submerged rock north of Seattle.

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More than 40 tourists were rescued from a whale watching boat after it began taking on water near the coast of Washington state on Thursday.

The U.S Coast Guard dispatched several crews after receiving a distress call from the 4Ever Wild catamaran around 12:30 p.m.

WATCH: Catherine Urquhart reports on the rescue of dozens of tourists from a whale watching boat

The vessel is owned by Eagle Wing Whale & Wildlife Tours based in Victoria, which said the boat struck a rock near Smith Island, about 10 kilometres off the coast of Whidbey Island.

As a precaution, the captain beached the vessel on the shore. All 43 passengers and three other crew members were reported safe.

READ MORE: $1.1-billion Washington state plan to save orcas includes partial whale-watching ban

U.S. Fish and Wildlife sent a boat to assist Coast Guard crews, while a U.S. navy helicopter was also sent to provide assistance.

The Coast Guard then called the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria to send an additional vessel, saying it was the only agency that could manage the shallow waters.

All passengers were safely loaded onto multiple rescue vessels and taken back to Victoria. Eagle Wing Tours said all the tourists will be provided refunds.

Following environmental and safety assessments, the vessel was determined safe for towing. The tour company said Friday that the vessel is being transported to Sidney, B.C. for further assessment and repair.

The company went on to say it will be operating a reduced tour schedule Friday morning and will resume its regular schedule on Saturday.

It’s not yet known how the accident happened. A spokesperson said the group was looking at seabirds in the area when the rock was struck.

Ted Harris-Means, a Spokane resident who was on the final day of his honeymoon with his wife, told Global News the crew handled everything perfectly.

“They were fantastic,” he said. “They were beyond professional and kept everyone calm, and even with a little bit of humour.”

Harris-Means said he and one other passenger hit a rail when the boat struck the rock, but not seriously enough to require medical attention.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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