British Columbia

RCMP stage water rescue after skipper turns on crew

Two crew members found themselves trapped on a fishing boat off a remote stretch of B.C. coastline with an unstable skipper who was armed with a shotgun.

2 jump to safety after police track cell signal 'pings'

Police in Port Hardy, B.C., tracked a cellphone distress call to a fishing boat in Browning Passage near Pine Island. (Google Maps)

A co-ordinated RCMP effort rescued two crew members who found themselves trapped on a fishing boat off a remote stretch of B.C. coastline with an unstable skipper who was armed with a shotgun.

At around 8:30 p.m. PT Sunday, police received a distress call from a 26-year-old woman who was a crewing aboard a 30-foot gill-netter off northern Vancouver Island, near Port Hardy.

She told police the skipper was high on drugs and threatened to kill her and the other crew member, a 21-year-old man.

She said she and the 21-year-old had sought refuge on the roof of the wheelhouse.

She also told police there were multiple knives and a loaded shotgun on board.

Information later came in that shots had possibly been fired.

'Pings' used to pinpoint

With no exact location of the boat given, RCMP officers launched boats out of Port Hardy and Port McNeill.

Members of the RCMP's Operational Communications Centre in Courtenay helped track the fishing boat using the woman's cellphone signal.

By tracking 'pings' between the phone and cell towers in the North Island area, searchers narrowed down the boat's possible locations to an area in Browning Passage near Pine Island, northeast of Port Hardy.

By 11 p.m., Port Hardy RCMP closed in on the fishing boat. Officers tried reaching the skipper and ordering him to shore over the marine radio, to no avail.

Police eventually spotted the two crew members at the back of the gill-netter and moved close enough for the pair to jump.

Police later reached the skipper by cellphone. He was persuaded to dock at Port Hardy under a police escort.

The skipper, a 49-year-old man from Courtenay, was arrested without incident.

Island District RCMP Cpl. Darren Lagan said that the number of shots fired and the alleged threats are now under investigation.