Ferry carrying 101 passengers hits ground, sinks in northern B.C.

All 101 passengers aboard Queen of the North rescued from seas in Queen Charlotte Islands


Prince Rupert (22 March 2006) - Rescuers scrambled to save 101 passengers adrift in lifeboats on choppy seas after the Queen of the North, operated by B.C. Ferries, struck a rock and sank off the Queen Charlotte Islands early Wednesday.

The accident happened about 135 kilometres south of Prince Rupert while the ferry was en route to Port Hardy, about 450 kilometres away on the northern tip of Vancouver Island.

The Queen of the North, operated by B.C. Ferries, runs aground and sinks on voyage from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy.

Initial reports said all 101 passengers aboard the 130-metre-long vessel had been accounted for. However, it was later learned that two of them, Gerald Foisy and Shirley Rosette, a couple from 108 Mile House, were missing and presumed to have gone down with the ship.

Otherwise, only minor injuries were reported, most related to cold and shock. The vessel left Prince Rupert about 8 p.m. Tuesday and was due to arrive in Port Hardy about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Passengers had about an hour to scramble into lifeboats before the vessel disappeared beneath the surface of the water. Built in 1969 in Germany, the ship is designed to carry a maximum load of 700 passengers and 115 cars.

Fishing boats from nearby communities, a helicopter and several coast guard vessels responded to the distress call. Passengers were being taken to a community centre in the nearby village of Hartley Bay.

B.C. Ferries is owned by the British Columbia government but operated privately under a controversial move made by the B.C. Liberal government of Premier Gordon Campbell.

The company made headlines last year when a ferry ran aground near Vancouver. In an earlier incident in July 2005, another vessel in the B.C. Ferries fleet lost power while docking and smashed into a marina in Horseshoe Bay near Vancouver. No one was injured but 22 pleasure boats were damaged or destroyed. NUPGE

More information:Northern B.C. ferry routes likely to be privatizedPrivate B.C. Ferries a disaster waiting to happen

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