By The Canadian Press - Monday, April 8, 2013 - 0 Comments
VANCOUVER – Karl Lilgert had sailed past Sainty Point almost 800 times between 1990…
VANCOUVER – Karl Lilgert had sailed past Sainty Point almost 800 times between 1990 and 2006, the corporate records manager for BC Ferries told court Monday.
But in the early morning of March 22, 2006, while Lilgert was serving as officer in charge of navigation, the Queen of the North missed a turn near the point and collided into Gil Island, forcing about 100 passengers to be brought to land in rafts and rescue boats.
In the years after the ferry sank and two missing passengers, Gerald Foisy and Shirley Rosette, were presumed dead, Tara Les Strange was asked to prepare a diagram showing how many times Lilgert worked on a vessel that passed the point from 1990 until the sinking.
Les Strange used payroll records and log books to reveal that Lilgert worked 2,176 days during those years, 795 of which he was on a boat that passed Sainty Point — either the Queen of Prince Rupert or the Queen of the North.
Lilgert was not always working as an officer on days he passed the point. He sometimes worked as a deckhand or a seaman, according to the records manager.
“I reviewed logbook entries (as well as payroll entries) for the entire work period,” said Les Strange, adding she reviewed more than 2,000 dates.
“There were, I believe 88 dates that I did not have a logbook available. For Queen of the North, from September 2004 to the date of the sinking there was not a logbook available. They were not sent to archives the week they went down with the vessel.”
Chilling radio calls from the night of the sinking played earlier in the trial recorded second officer Kevin Hilton calling: “Traffic, traffic: We have run aground south of Sainty Point, several miles south of Sainty Point” after the ship struck land.
Les Strange told Crown lawyer Samiran Lakshman she also produced diagrams showing when Hilton, Lilgert and quartermaster Karen Briker worked common shifts between March 22, 2005 and the day of the collision.
Payroll records show Lilgert worked 169 days that year and Briker, his former lover, worked 143.
The two worked 109 days on the same vessel and in the same department during that year, whereas Briker and Hilton worked together just 19 times.
The trial has heard that Briker and Lilgert were alone together on the bridge at the time of the crash, the first time they had been left alone since Briker ended their affair several weeks earlier.
Briker testified last month that Lilgert had been asking her about a home she recently had purchased with her common-law spouse.
The Crown alleges fourth navigational officer Lilgert caused the deaths of the two passengers who haven’t been seen since the Queen of the North sank in 2006 and are now presumed drowned.
The Crown argues Lilgert was criminally negligent when he failed to steer away from the island and missed a scheduled correction, but the defence has said the weather was bad, the equipment was unreliable and that training and staffing were inadequate at the time of the crash.
By The Canadian Press - Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 9:45 PM - 0 Comments
VANCOUVER – It wasn’t the crash that woke up Colin Henthorne, the captain of…
VANCOUVER – It wasn’t the crash that woke up Colin Henthorne, the captain of the Queen of the North passenger ferry, but frantic banging on his cabin door as an unidentified crew member pleaded for him to come to the bridge.
He didn’t find out the reason for the panic until he was already out of bed and almost dressed.
“Before I got my shoes on, the ship struck aground,” Henthorne, who was fired by BC Ferries after the crash, testified Wednesday at the trial of one of his former crew members.
“I recognized immediately what it was. There was no mistaking that we were striking ground and continued to hammer along the rock.”
The ferry struck Gil Island off British Columbia’s northern coast.
Navigating officer Karl Lilgert is on trial for criminal negligence causing the deaths of two passengers, who haven’t been seen since the sinking on March 22, 2006.
Henthorne told the court he rushed to the wheelhouse, where alarms were blaring and officers were already taking their positions. He couldn’t recall whether Lilgert was still on the bridge by that point.
He checked the radar and saw the ferry was extremely close to land, he said. Outside the windows of the bridge, he saw mostly darkness, except for a single white light he assumed was coming from another boat several miles away.
“The first thing I did after taking those two glances was to pick up the microphone to the PA system,” Henthorne told the jury in the B.C. Supreme Court trial.
“I made an announcement for all passengers and crew to proceed directly to the boat and raft stations.”
Henthorne did what he could to save the ship, or at least buy some time.
The first step was to close two watertight doors in the engine room, located on the lower deck, which could prevent water from flowing between compartments. He tried several times to contact the engineering crew to confirm they had a way out if those doors were closed and to ensure no one would get crushed by the doors as they slammed shut.
But there was no response. He ordered the doors shut anyway.
Henthorne then dropped the ferry’s anchors, he said, because if the ferry was still aground that might keep them from drifting into the open water. As it turned out, the ship was already floating away from the island into the deep waters of Wright Sound. The anchors were useless.
Crew and passengers were on their way to rescue stations, and Henthorne, who said he spent most of his time after the crash outside rather than in the bridge, gave the order to load up the rafts and boats and get them into the water, he testified.
As the evacuation progressed, a crew member informed the captain that a thick steel band that circles the ship known as the rubbing strake, which rubs against the wharf when the ferry is in dock, was under the water.
It was a significant piece of information, Henthorne said, because that steel band was at the same level as the ferry’s vehicle deck.
“From that deck up, there is no watertight integrity,” Henthorne told the court.
“In the simplest terms, it means we’re sinking and there’s no saving the ship.”
While crew loaded the passengers, Henthorne ran up and down the ship checking for passengers, he said. He looked inside passenger cabins, but found no one.
When all the other passengers and crew were off the ferry, Henthorne stepped into the final life boat and left his sinking ship.
All the while, crew attempted to count the number of people who made it into the life rafts and life boats, reporting their totals back to the captain, but those numbers fluctuated widely.
There were 101 people on board, and the trial has already heard the numbers ranged from 99 to 103 at various points throughout the night.
“Once a mistake had been made once, there was a doubt concerning every count that was made,” Henthorne told the court.
In the end, 99 passengers and crew were accounted for. Two passengers, Gerald Foisy and Shirley Rosette, were never seen again and presumed drowned.
The trial has already heard Lilgert was on the bridge with quartermaster Karen Bricker, his former lover, when the ship missed a critical course alteration and sailed toward Gil Island. It was their first time working alone together since their affair ended.
The Crown has accused Lilgert of failing in his duties by missing the turn, which prosecutors have argued demonstrated a disregard for the safety of the passengers and crew.
The defence has argued Lilgert was saddled with poor training and unreliable equipment, which ultimately led to the errors that caused the crash.
Lilgert pleaded not guilty to two counts of criminal negligence causing death.
His trial is expected to last up to six months.