Five Britons die in whale-watching boat accident off Canada


The five tourists who died when a whale-watching boat sank off western Canada were all British nationals, the British Foreign Minister confirmed in London on Monday.

The boat carrying 27 people sank off the coast of Vancouver Island late Sunday afternoon. No details have been given on how the boat came into difficulty.

The death toll rose from an initially reported three to five fatalities, Desmond James, Lt Commander with Canada’s Joint Rescue Coordination Center, told US broadcaster CBS on Monday afternoon.

He said the team was able to rescue 21 of the passengers and that one person was still missing.

British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond expressed his sympathies on his official Twitter account and said that the foreign office was supporting the families.

The accident happened off Tofino, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, where witnesses reported rescue activities on the town’s dock.

The area is popular with tourists in October when gray and humpback whales can be spotted in the region as they head south for winter.

Weather conditions were forecast to be good on the day of the accident.

The Canadian transport authorities have launched an investigation into the cause of the accident.

A helicopter and several rescue boats were deployed Sunday to recover the passengers from the Leviathan II vessel, which is 20 metres in length and carries up to 46 passengers over three decks, according to the tour operator’s website.

The tour was operated by Jamie’s Whaling Station, which says online that it offers gray whale watching tours in nearby Clayoquot and Barkley Sounds.

John Forde, the owner of a similar boat company, said: “Over the course of a season and years we take out thousands and thousands of people on these trips in conditions similar to today. I have no idea what the issue was or what actually happened.”