‘You could hear people screaming’: Heroes recount rescuing survivors of whale-watching tragedy

Written by admin on 14/11/2018 Categories: 老域名出售

Fishermen Ken Lucas and Clarence Smith think about what might have happened if they hadn’t seen a single flare in the sky near Plover Reefs, west of Vargas Island, on Sunday afternoon.

That flare came from the Leviathan II, a whale-watching boat operated by Jamie’s Whaling Station. The vessel had 27 people on board and capsized near Tofino around 4 p.m. Five people are confirmed dead and one person is still missing.

Lucas was dragging his fishing gear out of the water when he saw the flare in the sky.


“We pulled our gear in and we went running out to help,” he said.

IN DEPTH: Full coverage of the whale-watching accident off the coast of Tofino – videos and extended interviews

As they were heading to the scene, the two members of the Ahousaht First Nation called for more help.

“Within minutes there were half-a-dozen boats, including ourselves,” said Lucas.

‘You could hear people screaming’

When Lucas and Smith arrived at the scene, they plucked three people out of the water right away.

“We got to the life-raft and the guys were pointing us in the direction [saying] ‘there’s people in the water over there,’” said Smith.

“We went to get three people in the water. One guy was clinging to the hull of the Leviathan so we picked him first. And then I heard voices a little ways away, there was two ladies, one hanging on to each other. One of them had a life-jacket, and the other one, I’m not sure if she did or not.”

“One of them was pregnant and one had a broken leg.”

WATCH:  The man who was first on the scene of a whale watching vessel capsizing near Tofino speaks about the horror he witnessed. Ted Chernecki reports.

Once they got the three people on their boat, the two fishermen got the 10 people in the life-raft onto their boat as well.

Lucas said there was noise and chaos everywhere.

“You could hear people screaming on the rocks and within a few minutes that we were calling for help there was half-a-dozen boats,” he said. “We were telling the big boats to go around the rocks and the reefs where the accident happened.”

“The waves were crashing so hard, it was hard for them to hear us, but we kept pointing. ‘There’s people, people need help’.”

‘I told him ‘you’re going to be OK’

Lucas and Smith gave everyone blankets and clothes and tried to keep them warm, and said that it seems many were just clinging to life.

“They were lifeless, everybody was exhausted,” said Lucas. “Everybody was tired, nobody said a word. Everybody was shivering.”

READ MORE: Marine safety needs a ‘total reboot’ in wake of fatal Tofino sinking, safety expert says

One of the survivors was missing a shoe and his leg was entangled in fishing line. He didn’t have the energy to try and free himself.

“He had one shoe on, but his one leg was wrapped up in line, which was hung up in the boat,” said Lucas. “I was telling [Smith] this morning that if we didn’t catch that guy and take that line off his ankle, because he was so lifeless he couldn’t even swim. He was just hanging on for dear life.”

Lucas quickly asked Smith for a knife to cut the man free. “I cut the line and then he laid lifeless in the boat, he was so exhausted. He couldn’t say nothing, he couldn’t sit up. I touched his ears and his head and I rubbed his head and I told him ‘you’re going to be OK. I said, ‘you’re going to be OK’.”

No distress call

“We were listening on the radio for any distress [signals], but [there were] none,” said Smith.

Lucas said he thinks the crew didn’t have a chance to call for help – everything happened too fast.

One of the crew members told him she was only able to find the one flare and set it off. “She came across one flare and she shot it off in the sky and that’s what I captured,” said Lucas. “That one flare.”

“Just a single flare that I captured, shooting in the sky.”

Jamie’s Whaling Station said, as far as they know, there was no distress call issued.

What happened?

What caused the 20-metre vessel to capsize is still not clear.

Lucas said a woman they rescued, who identified herself as a crew member, told him a wave caused the Leviathan II to capsize.

“The one lady told us that they capsized from a wave. The Leviathan took a wave from the broadside, took a wave and the boat went right sideways, flipped on its side,” Lucas said.

It is still unclear who was wearing a life-jacket at the time of the capsizing.

“The employees of Jamie’s didn’t have any [survival suits] on and a lot of the [tourists] had their [life-jackets] on,” said Lucas. “Nobody that was a part of the Jamie’s Whaling Station had no life-jackets on. Everybody else did.”

“Well some of them.”

The investigation continues.


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