‘Tragic whale-watching boat was off-balance’

Passengers were crowded on the left side of the top deck of a whale-watching boat when it was struck by a wave from the right side, causing the vessel to capsize and send 27 people into the water off Vancouver Island, an investigator said.
The bow of the Leviathan II after the traged. Picture: APThe bow of the Leviathan II after the traged. Picture: AP
The bow of the Leviathan II after the traged. Picture: AP

Five Britons were killed, and the search continued yesterday for a missing Australian man. Twenty-one people were rescued after the Leviathan II capsised on Sunday afternoon.

Marc Andre Poisson, Director of Marine Investigations for Canada’s Transportation Safety Board, said that with most passengers on the left side of the boat, “this would have raised the centre of gravity, affecting the vessel’s stability”.

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When the wave approached from the right side, “we know that the vessel broached and then capsised”, he said, adding that investigators have interviewed the three crew members and some passengers. The full investigation is expected to take months.

The British Columbia Coroners Service identified the five victims, two of whom were British nationals living in Canada.

David Thomas, 50, and son Stephen, 18, from Swindon, Wiltshire, were among those who died when the ship capsised. Nigel Hooker, 63, from Southampton, was also killed, along with expats Jack Slater, 76, who lived in Toronto, and Katie Taylor, 29, who lived in the ski resort of Whistler. A 27-year-old man from Sydney remains missing.

Ms Taylor’s family said: “Katie was a vibrant, outgoing and lovely young woman. She will be very much missed by all 
of her family and many friends.”

Neighbours of Mr Hooker spoke of their shock at his death and described him as a “nice guy” who enjoyed working on his motorbike.

Martin Wire said: “It’s a tragedy. He lived on his own but had visits from his family – three daughters, I believe. He was a very nice guy.”