Rescuers in Tofino, B.C. capsizing tragedy honoured for bravery

Ten people who risked their lives to save others after a whale-watching ship capsized off the coast of B.C. last fall are being honoured as heroes.

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The group was awarded the Governor’s Gold Award by the B.C. and Yukon Lifesaving Society on Saturday at a ceremony in Vancouver.

Four months ago, the ship Leviathan II capsized after being struck by a powerful wave approximately 15 kilometres from Tofino, located on Vancouver Island’s west coast. Twenty-seven people on board were thrown into the frigid waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Five British nationals and an Australian died, but the death toll could have been higher, if not for crewmembers and nearby fishermen who risked their lives to save others.

In the midst of the crashing waves and chaos, crewmembers were able to deploy a life raft and pull several people from danger. They were also able to shoot a flare into the sky, which alerted a nearby fisherman.

Leviathan II crewmember Etienne Herold was among the honorees on Saturday. In an interview with CTV Vancouver on Saturday, Herold recalled the moments after the capsizing.

“People crying, people in shock,” Herold said. “People don’t know what’s happening around them … you just want to collect them and help them.”

Fisherman Carl Martin was also honoured Saturday for racing to the scene and transporting survivors to safety.

“If anyone was around there that day, they probably would have helped too and everybody did respond,” Martin said. “We were probably just the closest ones.”

In all, 21 people survived the ship disaster.

But it was the tragic loss of five people that still haunts the honorees, including crewmember Trinity Jezierski.

“We knew that people didn’t make it and that’s the hard truth of it and that’s the hardest part,” Jezierski said.

The transportation safety board is still investigating exactly what caused the boat to flip. However, the board has already confirmed that stability was a likely factor. Most of the passengers were on the left side of the top deck of the vessel when a wave hit the right side of the ship.

With a report by CTV Vancouver’s Scott Roberts


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