British Columbia

B.C. Ferries crew rescue fishermen from burning boat near Prince Rupert

Two men were rescued early Sunday morning by a passing B.C. Ferries vessel after their fishing boat caught fire in Arthur Passage near Prince Rupert.

Ferries vessel, running 6 hours behind schedule, was in the right place at the right time

B.C. Ferries crew members rescued two men from a burning boat early Sunday morning. (Arnie Nagy)

Two men were rescued early Sunday morning by a passing B.C. Ferries vessel after their fishing boat caught fire in Arthur Passage near Prince Rupert.

Arnie Nagy, a passenger on the ferry sailing from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert, was fast asleep when he was awoken by the vessel suddenly coming to a stop around 5 a.m.

"A crew member come up to me and he says 'come take a look at this ... There's a fire out there,'" said Nagy.

In the distance, something was glowing orange. As a lifelong fisherman, Nagy says he could tell it was a small fishing boat.

The people on board the fishing boat — two men — launched a flare.

"I've lost family members out on the water, said Nagy.

"It brings back a lot of fear because the biggest fear that anybody on a fishing boat has is a fire, because there's nowhere else to go but either into the water or if you're fortunate enough to have a life raft to get into."

He said most of the ferry's passengers were watching the burning boat and some were whispering prayers.

The B.C. Ferries crew dropped a rescue zodiac and two members motored out to the burning boat, where they were able to rescue the two men.

"When I seen the two fisherman were OK, it was just a huge relief to know that there's two families that are not going to be dealing with any of the type of grief that my family has gone through in the past," said Nagy.

The two men were brought back to the ship and the B.C. Ferries crew called over the speaker for the assistance of anyone with medical training. Nagy said two doctors and a nurse were able to respond.

The Canadian Coast Guard says its Prince Rupert Lifeboat Station launched a lifeboat crew which recovered the two men from the ferry and brought them into Prince Rupert.

B.C. Emergency Health Services says two paramedic units met the coast guard at the South Cow Bay Dock and both men were transported to the hospital.

A coast guard rescue ship picked the men up from the BC Ferries vessel and transported them to Prince Rupert. They were then taken to the hospital. (Arnie Nagy)

'Ship was destined to be there': passenger

The B.C. Ferries vessel was supposed to depart Port Hardy for Prince Rupert at 9 a.m. Saturday but was delayed multiple times, finally leaving at 3 p.m. It was then, again, delayed in Bella Bella, said Nagy.

Some might say it was a lucky coincidence the ship just happened to be in the right spot at the right time but not Nagy.

"I'm one that believes you're always being looked after. Whether it's by your ancestors, as we believe as First Nations people, or what have you," he said. 

"And I believe that day, that the crew and ship was destined to be there at that moment for those two fishermen."

Nagy says it was impressive to witness how professionally B.C. Ferries handled the entire situation.

"We really gotta tip our hats to that B.C. Ferries crew and the way they're trained to deal with those types of emergency situations," he said.

The Canadian Coast Guard said it was equally impressed.

"I'm grateful to the B.C. Ferries' Northern Adventure crew who responded in this situation and to all the cases they respond to on our coast," said Mariah McCooey, search and rescue superintendent with the Canadian Coast Guard.

"They are highly skilled mariners and they form a critically important part of the search and rescue system, responding frequently as vessels of opportunity."


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