Five children and two adults spent nearly half an hour in frigid water off the northern tip of B.C.'s Galiano Island after their fishing boat overturned around 8:30 p.m. PT Monday.
All seven were transported to the Sea Island Station in Richmond, where they were treated for moderate hypothermia by B.C. Ambulance and released.
'They clung onto it for 25 minutes, which is quite amazing, and it's a great end to what could have been a very tragic story.' - Ron MacDougall, Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria
The massive rescue response was launched after the 10-metre gillnetter issued a mayday to report the vessel was sinking in Georgia Strait near the entrance of Porlier Pass, located between Valdez and Galiano islands.
BC Ferries spokesman Darin Guenette says the Spirit of Vancouver Island was leaving Active Pass en route to Tsawwassen when it was diverted, while the Queen of Cowichan was diverted from its trip to Horseshoe Bay.The Canadian Coast Guard hovercraft Siyay was dispatched and two BC Ferries vessels were diverted to respond to the call.
They were joined by two coast guard auxiliary vessels, a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and a lifeboat from Ganges, B.C., on Saltspring Island.
Ron MacDougall, acting sub-lieutenant with the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria, said the hovercraft arrived first to find the vessel still floating, but it was sinking. He says it looked as if the boat had overturned and the survivors were clinging to the hull.
"Basically how I understand it is that they just clung on board, to the bottom of the vessel," he said.
"I think the vessel overturned and they clung onto it for 25 minutes, which is quite amazing, and it's a great end to what could have been a very tragic story."
An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated that five adults and two children were rescued from the boat. It was, in fact, two adults and five children.Sep 30, 2014 2:12 AM PT