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Insufficient maintenance contributed to fatal sinking of B.C.’s Arctic Fox II: report

Skipper and one crew member died as a result of the incident, one crew member survived
Commercial fishing boat the Arctic Fox II sunk off the coast of Vancouver Island in August of 2020, killing two crew members. (Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission)

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is citing “Insufficient maintenance and the absence of regulatory surveillance” as contributing causes to the fatal capsizing and subsequent sinking of Cowichan Bay’s Arctic Fox II in August 2020.

The incident occurred some 136 kilometres offshore of Cape Flattery, just south of Port Renfrew.

The TSBC’s report, released on Nov. 8, noted that when the ship’s skipper and two crew members left the marina for the fishing grounds, both the skipper and the vessel’s owner believed the risks of the commercial fishing trip had been addressed sufficiently.

“Their perceptions of risk were likely influenced by economic incentives, approvals and certificates, and many successful voyages,” said the report.

But, in the early hours of Aug. 11, 2020, the fishing vessel Arctic Fox II was reported as taking on water.

“The master attempted to deal with the water ingress and safety-critical tasks unassisted and ordered the crew members to prepare to abandon the vessel. As the vessel drifted and rolled in the sea conditions, waves landed on deck, making it difficult for the master and crew members to maintain their balance,” said the report. “The master and crew were unfamiliar with the instructions for deploying the life raft and, in their efforts to deploy the raft, its painter line was disconnected from the vessel and went overboard. Shortly after, the master and one of the crew members entered the water with their immersion suit only partially zipped and with ankle straps unsecured. Consequently, they were exposed to the elements and eventually drowned.”

Names were not released by the coroner, however family later confirmed that skipper Tom Lindberg, 76, was one of the men who died.

The report noted that “the familiarization of the life-saving equipment that the crew received was insufficient for them to successfully abandon the vessel, and the crew’s response was guided only by their limited experience.”

One crew member, a 19-year-old man, survived as he was able to reach the life raft. He was ultimately rescued by the United States Coast Guard.

The investigation found it was “insufficient vessel maintenance and the absence of regulatory surveillance” that contributed to the vessel sinking.

What’s more, the incident highlighted the requirement for Transport Canada to provide better monitoring and more surveillance “to effectively ensure that vessel owners and authorized representatives take ownership of their safety responsibilities and comply with regulatory requirements.”

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