Last week, we discussed a tragic fatal boating accident that took place near Vancouver. Three fishermen died and one miraculously survived after their vessel, the Caledonian, listed, took on water, and then sank. Coast Guard officials were able to save one of the men, who was wearing a life jacket. Unfortunately, the others did not make it.
Though not much was explained regarding the circumstances leading up to the accident, the most recent news reports have provided information on the boating accident, as told by the accident’s lone survivor.
According to the reports, the survivor, a deckhand, explained that the fishermen were attempting to haul in a net with a large catch of fish when the vessel listed into the water. Unfortunately, the survivor recounted that the crew was unable to get the ship upright again, and it ultimately capsized and sank.
Among the crew members that did not survive were Doug White, 41, Keith Edward Standing, 48, and Wesley Hagglund, 55. The name of the surviving victim has yet to be provided.
Aside from the survivor’s identity, we are also in the dark about other details surrounding the accident. Sure, there are circumstances that can cause a boat to list, but for a fishing vessel like the Caledonian, which is approximately 108 feet in length, there are certain expectations. A commercial fishing vessel is built to withstand the pull of bringing in catch as well as the weight of the catch. Though there are certainly limitations to any vessel, as experienced fishermen, the victims would have been aware of the maximum catch size their boat could withstand when attempting to haul it in.
Could a boat defect have contributed to the accident? It is quite possible. Let’s take a look at what maritime authorities have said about the incident.
According to Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) authorities, a rescue operation center operated by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG), other fishermen in the area reported that weather conditions were cloudy and waves were said to be over six feet tall on the day of the accident. At around 3:30 PM, the Caledonian had one “big” bag of fish already on board when the crew attempted to haul in another net. This was when the vessel began to list.
When the vessel listed, it trapped Standing and White in the hull. Meanwhile, Hagglund and the deckhand tried to stay atop the vessel, which was in the process of submerging. For several hours, the two men tried to hold on to whatever part of the ship remained above water when the body of one of their fellow crew members came to the surface at around 10 PM.
By this point, it was dark and the survivor eventually lost sight of Hagglund. The fisherman, who was wearing a life jacket, noticed a light in the distance and swam toward it. The light was actually the vessel’s inflatable life raft. The fisherman got atop the raft and was later found and rescued by the Canadian Coast Guard at around 2 AM, suffering from hypothermia, after the company that owns the Caledonian contacted Coast Guard officials when crew members failed to check in.
After a sea tragedy like this one, investigators usually inspect the remnants of the vessel to determine if faulty equipment was a factor. However, the Caledonian has not been found.
Authorities haven’t revealed any further details on the accident. The vessel may have listed due to an overly large catch that the fishermen were trying to haul in and the placement of the catch that was already on board, but there’s also a chance it could have listed due to issues with the structure of the boat itself.
Among the factors that can cause a boat to list include torque or haul issues. Many times, boat manufacturers will add hook or cup beneath the rear of the hull, but they do not add it symmetrically on both sides of the hull’s bottom center line. This will cause the vessel to list to one side.
Boat manufacturers should test the balance of a vessel before selling it, but this doesn’t always happen and the list may not always be noticeable when the boat is not in motion. The boat owners themselves could have added hook or cup to the bottom of the hull themselves. We don’t know exactly what happened since the vessel was not recovered, so for now, these are just possible scenarios.
If the accident is found to have been caused by issues with the boat’s design, then the survivor and the loved ones of the deceased fishermen may have due cause to file a seaman claim with a boating accident lawyer and may be entitled to compensation.