A group representing 14 First Nations on Vancouver Island is calling for a review of harbour laws and policies in Tofino, B.C. after two floatplane crashes in three months.
Transport Canada must review the regulations governing Tofino Harbour, the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council (NTC) said Friday, and make changes to benefit everyone’s safety.
“We cannot wait for the Transportation Safety Board to make recommendations,” said NTC president Judith Sayers in a press release.
“I was in the first floatplane accident and if it was not for the quick actions of my son Cole Sayers, I could have drowned.”
On Monday, a floatplane crashed into a water taxi near the small district and started tipping with three passengers and the pilot still inside.
Ahousaht man Ken Brown quickly untied his own water taxi and rushed to the scene of the collision, rescuing them all.
“The lives of two of our NTC employees were endangered in this second accident,” said Sayers.
“We need changes now so no more lives are at risk.”
The first accident was in July, when a floatplane flipped and crashed, sending five people to hospital.
Both took place in waters travelled by Nuu-chah-nulth people daily, which connect their communities to essential services.
The NTC said “obviously,” existing laws and regulations in the Tofino Harbour are not effective in preventing such accidents from taking place.
“We would like to see immediate action of course. This is very scary, very worrisome,” NTC vice-president Mariah Charleson told Global News.
The federal Transportation Safety Board (TSB) has launched an investigation into Monday’s crash, but Charleson asked for Transport Canada not to wait for its completion.
“We ask for Transport Canada to not wait, not wait for those recommendations and start doing their own work right now.”
In a statement on Monday, the federal department said it will support the TSB “any way” it can as it investigates recent floatplane crashes in Tofino, and its efforts to improve transportation safety are ongoing.
“We have actively worked with the seaplane industry and we have taken steps in recent years to improve the safety of seaplane operations,” wrote spokesperson Sau Sau Liu.
“These include changes made to the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) in 2019 to strengthen the safety of seaplane passengers and crew.”
Safety is a shared responsibility between boaters and seaplanes, and both marine and aviation address collisions on the water and right of way, added Liu.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Oct. 25, 2021 to include