Missing boat found off of Tofino

By Eric Plummer

TOFINO, BC — The boat that held three men who have been missing since Friday has been found near Tofino, located in the same area where two survivors from the incident emerged in the early morning hours of June 15.

At noon on Tuesday Connor Paone, executive assistant for the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, confirmed the find, after the Canadian Coast Guard reported that an RCMP sonar detected an “object of interest” on Monday. RCMP divers were able to verify that this object is the missing aluminum boat.

“The boat has been located, it has not been retrieved,” Paone said. “Our teams are working to secure the boat and come up with a retrieval plan.”

This discovery marks a break in the search for three Tla-o-qui-aht members. Until today, efforts have recovered little more than floating debris and equipment from the missing vessel.

At 3 a.m. Friday reports of calls for help came from near Duffin Cove in Tofino. Two non-locals who were on the boat were soon found in the area where the capsizing took place, but the other three remain missing. Despite the deployment of vessels and helicopters from multiple government agencies and nearly two dozen local boats on the water, at 9 p.m. Friday the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre called a “search reduction,” handing the matter over to the RCMP to handle as a missing persons case.

“Tla-o-qui-aht is leading the search right now, we’ve got about 12 boats on the water again today,” said Paone on Tuesday, adding that the Hesquiaht and Ahousaht First Nations are providing additional support on the water and scouring the shoreline for clues. “We’ve got the RCMP out here as well with their dive team and sonar boat.”

The missing boat was found west of Tofino, between Felice Island and Duffin Cove. The Tla-o-qui-aht’s efforts on the scene also include protecting the boat from being photographed, as publicity of the sunken vessel would bring more upset to the affected families and community. Paone said that the First Nation wants to ensure that no photos of the boat are posted on social media or provided to media outlets.

“We’ve been requested by the chief of the nation not to do that on behalf of the families. We’re thinking about the kids here,” said Paone. “Our main concern is having a good outcome of this operation, not trying to sensationalize what’s going on through the media.”

Ed Note: This story was originally published in the Ha-Shilth-Sa, Canada’s Oldest First Nations Newspaper and is republished here with permission. They have been telling their own stories since the 1970’s. To see more from them visit www.hashilthsa.com.

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