Tofino whale watching tragedy rescuers honoured by Lifesaving Society
Rescuers get standing ovation, medals for their efforts pulling tourists from water
Ten people who helped rescue victims after a whale watching boat capsized off the coast of Tofino in October, 2015 have been awarded medals for their bravery by the Lifesaving Society - BC and Yukon.
Included in the group were Etienne Herold and Trinity Jezierski, both guides, working for Jamie's Whaling Station aboard the Leviathan II when it sunk.
"You can't even fathom it," said Herold "It's like an action movie."
After getting knocked into the water they were able to deploy a life raft and pull other victims into it.
"It's something that stays with you every single day," said Jezierski. "The unfortunate thing is we couldn't get everyone, right? But we did [get] who was close to us and who we could reach.
"When you meet the parents of the people you helped get onto the life raft and how grateful they were, there's no other feeling like it."
Ahousaht fishermen close by Vargas Island off of Tofino were the only people able to see a single flare launched from the doomed Leviathan II as it quickly tipped, spilling 27 people into the water.
21 were rescued, while six died.
On Saturday the Lifesaving Society recognized:
- Francis Campbell
- Michelle Campbell
- Peter Frank Jr.
- Etienne Herold
- Trinity Jezierski
- Ken Lucas
- Carl Martin
- Marcel Martin
- Clarence Smith
- Donald Williams Jr.
Of the ten, only the Campbells, Etienne Herold, Jezierski and Carl Martin were able to accept their awards in person.
Francis Campbell and his wife Michelle raced to the scene after hearing a call for help and the pair were able to pull eight people to safety on their water taxi.
"And I'm just starting to talk about now," said Michelle Campbell. "So it's still really fresh and it's still really emotional."
Meanwhile in Tofino, Jamie's Whaling Station, along with several other companies, are preparing for the start of the whale watching season.
Special exercises were conducted last week to help coordinate local Ahousaht knowledge with coast guard operations.
Standing ovation for Tofino whale-watching boat rescuers. <a href="https://twitter.com/cbcnewsbc">@cbcnewsbc</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cbc?src=hash">#cbc</a> <a href="https://t.co/x92BR19fBa">pic.twitter.com/x92BR19fBa</a>—@KamilKaramali