An Alaska Marine Highway System ferry was in the right place at the right time to assist five Canadians who had abandoned a sinking ship, Canadian authorities said.
The M/V Kennicott was on the scene about 10 minutes after a mayday call went out shortly before 10 a.m. Friday. Six people aboard a “fishing charter type vessel” reportedly had to jump into the water south of Bella Bella, British Columbia, when the boat began to sink near Humchitt Island, said Joint Rescue Co-Ordination Centre Victoria rescue officer Aubrey Hachey.
“They were actually the first vessel to respond,” Hachey said in a phone interview.
Five of the people were able to swim about 300 feet to Humchitt Island where they were picked up by the ferry, Hachey said, but Royal Canadian Mounted Police are still searching for the boat’s sixth passenger. The Canadian Coast Guard and Canadian Forces initially assisted with the search before the RCMP took over. The five who made it to the island were wearing personal flotation devices, Hachey said. The missing person was not, according to reports.
Hachey said it is unknown what caused the boat to sink, and he would not disclose the names, ages or genders of the sunken boat’s passengers. He said the weather was “not terrible” Friday.
The people were transported to the ferry via the ferry’s smaller fast rescue boats.
Once aboard the Kennicott, the rescued people were able to warm up and dry their clothes, Hachey said.
“It was great assistance that way. We’re glad they were there,” he said
Department of Transportation & Public Facilities Communications Director Meadow Bailey said in an email the crew and master of the Kennicott did a “very professional job” in assisting with the rescue.
“All vessels and crews in our fleet drill for these types of situations as part of the AMHS’s strong safety program and safety culture,” Baiely said.
The people were then transferred to a Canadian Coast Guard vessel, Hachey said, and they were taken home.
It is not unusual for ferries to assist in an emergency situation.
“Ferries will respond quite often,” Hachey said.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.