TSB # M 14/2000
INVESTIGATION UPDATE INTO THE SINKING OF THE SMALL PASSENGER VESSEL
"TRUE NORTH II", 16 JUNE 2000, WITH THE LOSS OF TWO LIVES
OFF FLOWERPOT ISLAND, GEORGIAN BAY, ONTARIO--TSB INVESTIGATION # M00C0033
(Tiverton, Ontario, 12 September 2000) - On 16 June 2000, the small passenger vessel "TRUE NORTH II" was returning from Flowerpot Island to Tobermory with 19 passengers (including a group of grade seven school children and their teachers) and the operator on board. Shortly after departing, the vessel sank. While 18 people were able to make it to shore, 2 students drowned.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) began an investigation and deployed investigators to the site. In the days following the accident, investigators conducted interviews and gathered documentation on the vessel. The vessel was constructed in 1949 and had been operated in the Tobermory area as a passenger vessel since 1971. The sunken vessel was brought to the surface and towed to port where a TSB naval architect/investigator surveyed the vessel with a view to determining its condition, construction and stability. The investigation continues.
This accident, involving the loss of two children, has generated significant public concern about the safety of small passenger vessels. The TSB investigation will address these and other safety concerns.
As previously arranged, the "TRUE NORTH II" went to Flowerpot Island on the morning of 16 June 2000 to pick up a group of students and their escorts, who had camped overnight, and return them to Tobermory. There were 13 grade seven students, two supervising teachers, and two co-op students, as well as two adult tourists who had requested passage on the return trip. The operator was the only crew member aboard the vessel. The reported weather conditions at the time included southwest winds of 20 to 25 knots, and seas were running with waves of about 1.5 metres.
Shortly after 1020, when clear of the sheltered waters of Beachy Cove, the vessel was struck by a series of large waves. The deck area forward of the superstructure filled with water to the level of the bulwarks. Subsequent waves caused water to enter through the side openings in the superstructure. The bridge front door and the steering position window were broken in by the seas. The accumulating water on the deck downflooded into the hull and, at about 1025, the vessel sank rapidly by the stern.
The passengers were swept clear, or abandoned the vessel by way of the openings, or were pulled underwater by the sinking vessel. Two 'buoyant apparatus' floated clear as the vessel sank and 18 persons were able to hold on to them and reach the shore of Flowerpot Island.
Progress to Date
TSB investigators have had the cooperation of those who had a role in the operation and inspection of the "TRUE NORTH II". Information is being gathered from many sources and is being analysed. The following matters of potential significance have been identified and are being addressed in the investigation:
- the design, condition and operation of the vessel
- safety requirements and vessel inspection/certification
- competency requirements of the operator, and the number of crew
- the fitting, stowage and use of life-saving equipment
- distress/emergency communications and response
- operation of smallpassengervessels
The investigation team has met with the students, parents, teachers, and other involved personnel in order to gather information on the accident and to brief them on the progress of the investigation. More information will be gathered as necessary; the matters of significance will be further refined and analysed in order to establish the TSB's findings as to causes and contributing factors. If the TSB determines that there is a need for urgent safety action, these matters will communicated to the appropriate person and/or organization for their prompt action, and this information will be made public.
On the completion of the work of its investigators, the Board will produce its draft report and will send it on a confidential basis to those who, in the opinion of the Board, have a direct interest in the findings. Typically included in that group are the operator, the regulator, the manufacturers and others who can contribute materially to the accuracy of the report or whose activities or products are discussed in the report. Those designated to review the confidential draft may use it or permit its use only for a purpose strictly necessary for the examination of and preparation of representations concerning the report. The families of victims and passengers are not sent a copy of the confidential draft report, but they are updated as the investigation proceeds. After the accuracy of the Board's information has been verified and the Board has considered any representations on the draft report, it will make its final report public.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is an independent agency whose sole purpose is to advance transportation safety through the investigation of occurrences in the marine, pipeline, rail and aviation modes of transportation by:
- conducting independent investigations including, when necessary, public inquiries, into selected transportation occurrences in order to make findings as to their causes and contributing factors;
- identifying safety deficiencies as evidenced by transportation occurrences;
- making recommendations designed to eliminate or reduce any such safety deficiencies; and
- reporting publicly on its investigations and on the findings in relation thereto.
For the public to have confidence in the transportation accident investigation process, it is essential that the investigating agency be, and be seen to be, independent and free from any conflicts of interest when it investigates accidents, identifies safety deficiencies and makes safety recommendations. Independence is a key feature of the TSB. The Board reports annually to Parliament through the President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and is separate from other government agencies and departments. Its independence enables it to be fully objective in arriving at its conclusions and recommendations.
The final report will include an evaluation of any safety action that has already been taken to mitigate risks identified in the investigation. The final report will also address any safety deficiencies that continue to be of concern to the Board, and whatever recommendations the Board may consider necessary to increase safety for the travelling public. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or to determine civil or criminal liability.
NOTE: This update is based on information assembled by the investigation staff and will be amended as other facts are gathered. The investigation is not complete and one should not attempt to infer findings as to the causes and contributing factors of this accident on the basis of this update.
The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.
For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
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