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Whale-Watching Boat Sinks Off British Columbia; Officials Say 5 Dead

Rescue personnel, mounting a search for victims of a capsized whale-watching boat, park on a wharf in Tofino, British Columbia, on Sunday.
Adam Chilton
Rescue personnel, mounting a search for victims of a capsized whale-watching boat, park on a wharf in Tofino, British Columbia, on Sunday.

Updated at 4:05 a.m. ET

Five people have died after a whale-watching boat sank off the coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, on Sunday. The British Columbia Coroners Service confirmed the death toll late Sunday night.

The boat had 27 people on board, according to the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre. Twenty-one people have been rescued and one is still missing, the CBC reports, citing the JRCC.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada says it will be sending a team of investigators to look into the incident.

The Associated Press said the boat went down near Tofino. The AP adds:

"The vessel made a mayday call late Sunday afternoon on what was a clear and sunny day in the tourist community of Tofino, a popular destination for whale watchers on Canada's West Coast, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre said."

The Leviathan II, owned by Jamie's Whaling Station in Tofino, is 65 feet in length, according to the tour company's website. It is the company's largest boat.

In a statement on the site, owner Jamie Bray said, in part:

"We are doing everything we can to assist our passengers and staff through this difficult time.

"We are cooperating with investigators to determine exactly what happened."

Bray also thanked the rescue teams, including the local First Nation communities. Alec Dick of the Ahousaht First Nation tells Canada's Global News that some local fishermen, spotting a flare, were among the first to respond and helped pull people out of the water.

Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne tweeted a message of support for passengers and crew on Sunday night.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Dana Farrington is a digital editor coordinating online coverage on the Washington Desk — from daily stories to visual feature projects to the weekly newsletter. She has been with the NPR Politics team since President Trump's inauguration. Before that, she was among NPR's first engagement editors, managing the homepage for NPR.org and the main social accounts. Dana has also worked as a weekend web producer and editor, and has written on a wide range of topics for NPR, including tech and women's health.