Friday, March 14, 2008

A report, an apology and still more questions remain

The Daily News began its coverage of the Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into the sinking of the Queen of the North, with a front page article in Thursday’s paper.

Thursday the paper provided a brief outline of the report, details of a letter of apology from former crew member Karl Lilgert and promised more coverage to come in Friday’s paper.

Transportation Safety Board spent two years probing why ferry was lost
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Pages one and two

B.C. Ferries crew members on board the bridge of the Queen of the North failed to follow proper safety procedures, sealing the fate of the vessel when she sank two years ago.

According to the Transportation Safety Board (TSB), which released its final report into the sinking yesterday, the two officers on the bridge were engaged in a personal conversation when they missed the course change and the vessel crashed into Gil Island.

An, alarm that would have alerted the crew to the missed course correction, was turned off and other navigational equipment was not in place.

“Essentially, the system failed that night. Sound watch-keeping practices were not followed and the bridge watch lacked a third certified person.” Said Wendy Tadros, chair of the TSB.

Any action taken once the course change was noticed was then described as “too little too late”.

There were 101 people on board the vessel when she sank off Gil Island on March 22, 2006. Only 99 people made it to shore. It took B. C. Ferries hours to conclude they were missing because it didn’t have an accurate passenger list.

The federal agency says that if the ship had a voyage data recorder – similar to the black boxes found on aircraft – the public and investigators wouldn’t be forced to speculate about what happened during the 14 minutes it took the ferry to go off course and run aground.

“While we do not know exactly what the crew was doing on the bridge minute by minute… I can tell you they were not following sound watch-keeping practices,” said Capt. Pierre Murray, a senior safety board marine investigator.

Following the release of the report, the fourth officer on board the bridge that night, Karl Lilgert, issued am apology to all those affected by the incident.

“I continue to grieve for the missing persons and would with all my heart exchange my life for theirs,” he said. “Words are inadequate for the sorrow and grief I feel. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about everyone that was impacted by this tragic accident.”

The B. C. Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union has confirmed that Lilgert and Quartermaster Karen Bricker, who were on the bridge that night, had recently ended a romantic relationship, but has denied they were doing anything inappropriate.

According to the TSB, as the Queen of the North transited Wright Sound, the officer of the watch and the quartermaster sat in their chairs next to the radar and the forward steering station and continued talking off and on for the next 12 minutes before noticing anything was wrong.

There are three recommendations from the TSB report - B., C. Ferries improve procedures for keeping track of passengers; that it improve procedures for crew training in an emergency and that all large Canadian vessels be fitted with voyage data recorders.

“The recommendations we are making today go beyond the cause of the sinking to ensure that Canadians will always reach port safely. Passengers are the focus of our first two recommendations. In an emergency, all passengers must be accounted for and evacuated to safety. Our third recommendation calls for voyage data recorders on all of Canada’s large vessels,” said Tadros.

A criminal investigation into the sinking continues. A lawsuit launched by the children ofShirley rosette and Gerald Foisy – the passengers who died – continues, as do plans for a class action suit by the other passengers.

See tomorrow’s Daily News for more.

No comments: