The Queen of the North sank March 22, 2006, near Gil Island off B.C.'s coast. This image was taken by a submersible robot. ((Transportation Safety Board))

One of the officers on the ill-fated Queen of the North has been charged with criminal negligence causing the deaths of two people, in the sinking of the BC Ferries vessel off the West Coast in March 2006.

Karl Lilgert, the navigating officer responsible for steering the vessel at the time, was charged on Tuesday morning in B.C. Provincial Court in Vancouver, said a statement issued by the province's Criminal Justice Branch.

The ferry sank two hours after running aground near Gil Island, south of Prince Rupert. While 99 crew and passengers managed to abandon ship, passengers Gerald Foisy and Shirley Rosette were never found, and are believed to have gone down with the ship.

The statement by Crown spokesman Neil MacKenzie said the evidence did not warrant laying charges against any other member of the ship's crew.

Previous investigation led to suspensions

A BC Ferries internal report on the sinking, issued in March 2007, blamed human error for the accident and singled out two officers and one crew member in charge of navigation and steering at the time for failing to make a required course change.

BC Ferries suspended Lilgert and second officer Kevin Hilton when they refused to give crucial details of what happened before the ferry sank.

A separate investigation by the Transportation Safety Board determined Lilgert and a crew member on the bridge, quartermaster Karen Bricker, were having a conversation and did not make a critical course change just before the ship ran aground.

The pair had recently ended a romantic relationship, the report noted.

In November 2008, the B.C. Supreme Court upheld the suspensions of Lilgert and Hilton.

No previous criminal charges were ever laid. Lilgert's next court appearance is scheduled for April 14.

The vessel's captain, Colin Henthorne, was not on the bridge at the time of the incident, and WorksafeBC ruled in March 2009 that he should return to work, two years after he lost his job over the incident.