Fourteen jurors, instead of the usual 12, have been sworn in for the trial of an officer in charge of the ferry Queen of the North when it sank off B.C.'s north coast seven years ago.

The additional jurors are due to the length of the trial, which is to start Thursday in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, and the potential that some jurors will not be able to sit through the entire proceeding. The trial is expected to last as long as six months, with the Crown taking three months to make its case.

Navigation officer Karl Lilgert, who was fired by BC Ferries after the sinking, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of criminal negligence causing death.

The ferry slammed hard into Gil Island on the night of March 22, 2006. Within an hour, the ship was completely under water, with all but two of the passengers and crew in lifeboats.

Passenger recalls screaming

Passengers Gerald Foisy and Shirley Rosette, of 100 Mile House, B.C., were never accounted for and are presumed drowned.

Passenger Les Wilson says he will never forget that night.

"The alarms started clanging and voices are screaming. I sprang up the stairs to grab my wife and make sure we got out onto the deck," Wilson said.

Lilgert was the senior officer in charge while the second officer was on a break. The captain had gone to bed for part of the 500-kilometre 18-hour trip south from Prince Rupert, on B.C.’s mainland, to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island.


Former officer Karl Lilgert was in charge on the bridge when the B.C. ferry Queen of the North hit Gil Island. (CBC)

Lilgert’s lawyer, Glen Orris, says that while his client might have made mistakes, they don’t amount to criminal negligence.

Shirley Rosette’s cousin, Phylliss Rosette, says she just wants to know what happened and why.

"All we want is some answers, and closure."

BC Ferries has settled lawsuits with families of the victims as well as 45 other passengers.

With files from the CBC's Terry Donnelly