The RCMP has finally waffled into the Queen of the North accident, they say the mounties always get their man, but it puzzles me why it took so long to lay charges. BC Ferries’ Queen of the North sank on BC’s north coast over four years ago, taking two passengers down with it. Four years later, they decide to charge the officer of the watch, at the time of the grounding, with criminal negligence.
I guess the bright side of this story, is that Canada does not rush to jail seafarers, like many countries. Of course, even after four years, and several investigation, I wonder how the “root causes” will be prosecuted. I believe criminal negligence charges and convictions are rather rare in Canada as far as I know, so this as the potential to set a trend. There was an interesting comment on the national paper’s website, about how the police officers at the Vancouver airport should be held to the same legal standards.
Now, we know that the story will continue for at least another year. The media interest in this case as been overwhelming, and is sure to sell lots of papers, with the questions bound to be asked on the stand. Perhaps we will hear the “confirmation” of salacious rumors of the going on the bridge, that fateful night. But then again, maybe the layout of the bridge, poor training, improper certification, economic pressure, fatigue, an old ship, or a litany of other contributing factors may ultimately be found the culprit. Regardless I believe it is easier to swallow the more topical explanations, and therefore I suspect the case will proceed like the TSB file, with unanswered questions, perhaps because there is no easy answers, much like the police officers at the airport.
Marine Log‘s story gets right to the point…
Four years after the sinking of BC Ferries Queen of the North, Karl Lilgert, the navigating officer responsible for steering the vessel at the time, was charged on Tuesday morning in British Columbia Provincial Court in Vancouver with criminal negligence causing death. The Queen of the North veered off course on its run to Port Hardy from Prince Rupert and hit the northeast side of Gil Island in Wright Sound at 12:22 a.m on March 22, 2006. Fifty-seven passengers and 42 crew members abandoned ship before it sank, but two people — Shirley Rosette and Gerald Foisy — were never found and were declared dead. This is the first time in Canada someone has been charged criminally for a marine collision involving a passenger ferry, according to spokesman for the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch. “Mr. Lilgert has been charged on the basis that he was the navigating officer responsible for steering of the vessel at the time of the incident,” the spokesman is quoted as saying. He added that the evidence presented after an exhaustive RCMP investigation does not support charges against anyone other than Lilgert. Defense lawyer Glenn Orris said Lilgert will plead not guilty when he appears in court in Vancouver April 14. He was released on $5,000 bail on the conditions that he does not come in contact with 17 listed crew members, abstains from operating a vessel in a professional capacity and attends the Grand Forks RCMP detachment within a week for fingerprinting and photographing. The sinking of the Queen of the North was the subject of investigations by both Canada’s Transportation Safety Board and BC Ferries.