95 per cent of the community’s boats were out there.
Robert Burridge and his wife Patricia, who is a teacher in Ahousaht, were there when the tragedy struck.
“All the boats from Ahousaht left as soon as they heard the distress call. About 95 per cent of the community’s boats were out there.”
Burridge says its typical for the Ahousaht to respond quickly and be the first on scene when there’s a marine emergency.
“They know the waters. They have it in their custom not to leave a body behind. Where other people will wait for it to show up with the RCMP, the Ahousahts are still out there looking.”
Tofino’s mayor, Josie Osborne, says the Ahousaht community always responds to incidents at sea.
“The mobilization is incredible. That’s a community unto itself.
The Ahoushat community immediately sending out about 30 people, seven different boats.
Pleasure craft, commercial craft, anybody who is in the vicinity, is there on scene.”
Burridge says just before the accident the water was fine. “It was a beautiful day. There was some swell but where they say the boat went down it was shallower so maybe the waves were a little higher.”
Osborne says the mood in Tofino is somber, as people struggle to make sense of the tragedy.
The MV Leviathan II, operated by Jamie’s Whaling Station, had 27 passengers and crew on board at the time of the sinking.
The BC Coroner’s Service reports that the five fatalities were all British nationals.
Four men, one woman, their ages ranging from 18 to 76.
Three were tourists; one a resident of Ontario, another was living in British Columbia.
This is not the first fatal incident involving the company,
In 1998, one of its vessels rolled during an excursion, sending all four people on board into the water.
The operator and one of the passengers died.