Couple Feared Dead in Ferry Sinking

Friday, March 24, 2006
Two people are now feared dead after an ocean-going ferry sank when it smashed onto a rocky island on Canada's Pacific coast on March 22. Police have begun a missing persons investigation for the couple, whom witnesses reported seeing on shore with the 99 others rescued from the ferry Queen of the North, but who have not been heard from since. According to Reuters, BC Ferries now fears those witness reports were wrong and that the couple from the town of 100 Mile House, British Columbia, went down with the ship. The Queen of the North is believed to have gone off course and struck Gil Island shortly after midnight local time, about 75 miles south of Prince Rupert, on a trip down the Inside Passage on the northwest coast of British Columbia. T The ship was on a 15-hour journey from Prince Rupert, which is near the southern tip of the Alaska panhandle, to Port Hardy on the northern end of Vancouver Island. The ship, which may have been using a new auto-pilot system, was traveling at about 19 knots when it crashed. Police searched the island and boats scanned the water, and there was no evidence the couple found their way home from Hartley Bay -- the remote aboriginal fishing village whose residents helped rescue survivors. The ship is submerged in about 1,200 feet of water, so the search for victims and clues as to what caused the accident will require divers or remote-controlled equipment. Environmental crews were monitoring a fuel spill from the 410-foot ship, which was carrying 57,200 gallons of No. 2 diesel and 5,200 gallons of light oil, plus hydraulic oil. There were also 16 vehicles on the ferry. The accident is causing economic concern on the coast and the Queen Charlotte Islands where communities depend on ferries for transportation and to deliver most supplies. The other ferry used on the route was undergoing several weeks of scheduled repairs, but is now being rushed back into service. It is not expected to return until late next week. (Source: Reuters AlertNet)
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