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Tugboat crew abandons ship, swims to lighthouse while vessel sinks

Aug 26, 2015 12:00 PM

A two-man crew abandoned a sinking tug and swam to safety at a British Columbia lighthouse.

The 35-foot Syringa was towing a barge from Valdez Island to Blind Bay on Hardy Island on March 18 when the tugboat started flooding. The duo was forced to abandon their vessel and swim about 200 yards to another island in the Strait of Georgia, according to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB). 

“The tug took on water and the crew managed let go the towline, and then the vessel took on water and sank, and the crew managed to jump in the water and swim to Merry Island, made their way to Merry Island Lighthouse and met the lighthouse keeper,” said TSB investigator Clinton Rebeiro. “Later on (a) Coast Guard hovercraft showed up and transferred them to Gibson’s Landing.”

The Canadian Coast Guard was alerted to the incident at 1540 by a 911 call from a resident of Halfmoon Bay on the adjacent mainland shore. The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Victoria initiated a mayday call, tasking a hovercraft from Sea Island in Richmond, a motor lifeboat from French Creek and aircraft.

The Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue’s Station 12 crew were the first on the scene.

Built in 1962, Syringa, owned by Spick and Sons Projects Ltd., was powered by a single 335-hp diesel engine. Spick and Sons Projects did not respond to requests for comment.

Investigators did not disclose whether the two crewmembers were wearing life vests. Rebeiro said that TSB is continuing to investigate and will write a report on the incident.

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