A lack of stability is the likely cause of the deadly Caledonian sinking off the coast of Vancouver Island last fall, a federal report revealed Wednesday.
The large fishing vessel had capsized 55 kilometres west of Estevan point, which is located north of Tofino, on the afternoon of Sept. 5, 2015 with a crew of four.
Engineer Keith Standing, 48, and deckhand Doug White, 41, of Port Alberni, and 55-year-old skipper Wesley Hegglund of Duncan all died in the capsizing.
Only one unidentified crew member survived – likely, according to the report, because he was the only one wearing a personal flotation device.
— Kat (@katslepian) December 14, 2016
According to Transportation Safety Board chair Kathy Fox, while PFDs are only mandatory on fishing vessels when crew feel there is a risk, they make fishing much safer.
“Here in B.C., roughly 70 per cent of all fishing fatalities in the past decade came while not wearing a PFD,” said Fox. “All fisherman need to wear a PFD – it’s that simple.”
The report recommended that wearing PFDs be made mandatory for crews at all times when on the deck of a fishing vessel and that both WorkSafeBC and Transport Canada ensure compliance.
The 14-month investigation revealed that the Caledonian was 50 tons heavier, plus fuel, supplies and crew, when it capsized than when it last had its stability assessed in 1976.
“The crew had not realized that their vessel had grown heavier over time or that their operating practices were putting themselves or their vessel at risk,” said investigator-in-charge Glenn Budden.
The 50 tons translated to a 20-per-cent increase in the weight, Fox said, and caused it to sit nearly half a metre lower in the water.
The transportation board recommended that Transport Canada ensure that all small and large fishing vessels have up-to-date stability information that is easily accessible to the crew.