Full extent of damage becomes apparent after volunteer vessel smashed into wall on the Fraser River during windstorm “A few lessons have been learned.” John Horton, captain of the Steveston Lifeboat, was candid when explaining to the News why his vessel — with 14 passengers and crew on board — crashed straight into a seawall at the beginning of Thursday evening’s windstorm.
Horton said moments before the collision on the south side of the south arm of the Fraser River around 7:30 p.m., he was showing “trainees” how to de-tune the radar when they hit the wall, which has been in place for decades and directs the flow of the river. Admitting it was an inopportune moment to reset the radar, Horton said, “mistakes will be made and we made one.”Within minutes, the vessel — which belongs to the charitable, B.C. based Canadian Lifeboat Association and is not part of official rescue details along with the Coastguard and RCMSAR — was taking in water through a gaping hole and was badly listing.bA mayday call was sent and the volunteer RCMSAR crew arrived to save nine of the passengers and crew still on board, despite the darkness, pounding rain, and 60 km/hr winds.Five other passengers and crew had already been evacuated into a dinghy and were recovered by the Coast Guard’s hovercraft, who had arrived minutes later. Everyone involved was taken safely back to shore with no serious injuries.
The wall hit by the lifeboat — which is mainly used for ceremonial duties but does help tow broken down vessels to safety — is barely visible at high tide, but is known to everyone navigating the Fraser.Horton said a “very experienced” former tugboat skipper was at the helm at the time. “He’s been up and down this stretch of water for half his life,” added Horton, talking to the News Friday morning while out at sea, surveying his stricken vessel, part of which was still above water.
“We were just about to make a turn when we were swept towards the wall. There was a tremendous tide last night.” Horton claimed there was a wealth of experience on board with former merchant navy and regular navy seamen part of the crew. “Everyone was very professional after it happened. We know what we’re doing; but mistakes are sometimes made aren’t they?” he said. Horton defended the decision to head out on a training mission, despite a windstorm warning of winds up to 90-kilometres per hour.“The sea was at about one and a half feet and (winds) 25 to 30 knots when we headed out, the bad stuff wasn’t coming until later,” he claimed.“We sometimes have to train in bad weather.” Horton claimed the lifeboat took part in 31 “rescues” this year, despite not being part of the official rescue detail when someone at sea issues a distress call.He wouldn’t go into exactly what lessons have been learned from the incident.
“I’m not prepared to say right now, it’s too early.” RCMSAR coxswain Kevin Robertson credited his crew for their “great response” and was thankful that no one was seriously injured. “Despite the difficult conditions, the extensive training of RCMSAR crews ensured a safe rescue for all involved,” said Robertson.The vessel was barged to a dry dock in News Westminster on the weekend, where the full extent of the damage will be investigated.Meanwhile, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has deployed an investigator to probe the incident. Source : Richmond News