Nova Scotia

Boat owners dispute claims of safety violations in drowning

The owners of a Nova Scotia-based tall ship are disputing claims there were safety and operating violations when Laura Gainey was swept overboard and lost at sea.

The owners ofa Nova Scotia-based tall shipare disputing claims there were safety and operating violations when Laura Gainey was swept overboard and lost at sea.

Windward Isles Sailing Ship Company Ltd. has responded to a letter from the Canadian Transportation Safety Board to marine officials in the Cook Islands, who are conducting an inquiry.

Gainey, the 25-year-old daughter of Montreal Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey, was swept overboardwhen awave washed over thePicton Castletall shiplast Dec. 8. The ship was in the Atlantic Ocean, about 760 kilometres southeast of Cape Cod, Mass.,en route to Grenada.

TheTransportation Safety Boardreceived a preliminary copy of the report preparedin the Cook Islands, where the Picton Castle is registered. It conductedits own interviews and investigation, and sent off a response to theCook Islands'secretary of transport.

In the letter, thesafety boardsaid not all crew members had marine emergency training, including some who were required to stand watch.

The safety drills were inadequate, the crew did not get enough practice time getting into marine survival suits, the ship was short-handed and crew members were not getting enough rest, the letter said.

It also said safety harnesses were not used on deck, and it mentioned two incidents where people lost their footing.

"We have identified a number of safety issues," Paul van den Berg, a senior marine investigator with the safety board, told CBC News. "We wish to bring it to the Cook Islands' attention for their consideration."

But the operators of the Lunenburg-based Picton Castle take issue with every point raised by the safety board.

In a statement released Tuesday, the Windward Isles Sailing Ship Co. saidthe crew was twice the size required by law, and that Gainey was ordered below decks because she was tired and needed rest.

"In regards to the events surrounding the tragic loss of Laura Gainey, we stand behind our captain and crew," the statement said.

While Lunenberg is home port for the tall ship, it is registered in the Cook Islands, a country northeast of New Zealand in the south Pacific.