HMCS Victoria crew coming to grips with death of senior sailor in diving accident

CFB Esquimalt-based submarine will sail with temporary coxswain on board

Chief Petty Officer 1st class Richard Boileau holds his grandson in this family photo

The crew of Canada’s flagship submarine is feeling the loss of one of their own, who died following a recreational scuba-diving incident.

Chief Petty Officer 1st class Richard Boileau, 47, who had gone diving with two friends in the Saanich Inlet near Bamberton on Saturday, is being remembered as an integral part of a very close 48-member team of submariners serving on HMCS Victoria.

“We’re coping. You have to understand that we’re a very small crew, tightly knit, and therefore the loss of any of our crew members is very noticeable,” said Cmdr. Christopher Ellis, Victoria’s commanding officer.

Ellis went with a military padre to Boileau’s Esquimalt home on Saturday to deliver the sad news to his wife, Brenda Lyall. They had been married for 26 years.

As word spread about the tragedy, condolences have poured in from beyond submariner circles.

“He had a far-reaching influence and was well-regarded,” Ellis said of his coxswain, who started in the military as a cook 28 years ago. Boileau joined HMCS Victoria last November.

“It was not your typical job – that appealed to him,” Lyall said of her husband’s decision to join the submarine program. “He was not a sidelines kind of guy.”

The avid diver leaves a grown son and daughter, two grandsons and a large extended family in Quebec.

The B.C. Coroners Service is working to determine the cause of death. Police do not suspect foul play.

Two of Boileau’s friends, who were diving with him at the time, were taken to a decompression chamber after the dive Saturday afternoon, prompting coroner officials to consider the possibility that Boileau died from an air embolism (air bubbles in the blood stream).

“What happens is, he gets into trouble while he’s on the dive, and as a result of getting into trouble, he ends up maybe rising too fast,” said Barb McLintock, spokesperson for the B.C. Coroners Service. “But we still need to know what was going on that caused the problem in the first place.”

Boileau’s “complex” scuba-diving gear will be examined by Canadian Coast Guard dive experts on the Lower Mainland, given that “there is always the possibility of a mechanical problem,” McLintock said.

HMCS Victoria’s sailing schedule has not been impacted by the tragedy, but there are several important milestones the boat must still achieve before it achieves full operational status.

Starting next week, the coxswain of Halifax-based HMCS Corner Brook will fill in on Victoria for two months, until the position can be permanently filled. The boat is scheduled to sail for Hawaiian waters in mid-June, where it will take part in the multinational biennial Rim of the Pacific Exercise.

Meanwhile, Boileau will be sorely missed, given his role on board as the senior sailor who served as a vital link between the crew and the command team.

“We’re going to continue to feel his presence within the submarine community, because he very much had a positive influence through his mentorship of the crew and other submarine trainees,” Ellis said.

emccracken@vicnews.com

Tragic numbers:

• There have been 17 scuba-diving deaths in B.C. in the past five years, most of them off the coast of Vancouver Island, according to the B.C. Coroners Service. Causes of death range from diver error to faulty equipment to medical problems.

Just Posted

James Bay street corner could house public berry patch

The James Bay Neighborhood Association is hoping to offer berries locals

High of 16 C for Thursday

Plus your weekend forecast

New commemorative loonie marking progress for LGBTQ2+ rights draws mixed response

Critics say coin’s date of 1969 ‘equality’ is misleading

PHOTOS: Slugfest at the 2019 Super Channel Championships

Pictures from day two of Boxing BC bouts this week

Time for round two of the Dunnet theatre seat sale

Fundraising committee looks to sell remaining seats Dave Dunnet Community Theatre at Oak Bay High

WATCH: Cougar saunters through Metchosin yard

Spring cougar sighting caught on camera

Wanted by Crime Stoppers

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Do you think the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris should be rebuilt?

Images of one of the word’s most iconic landmarks were seared into… Continue reading

B.C., Ottawa talk 50/50 split on abandoned bus-route service

B.C. has paid $2 million on a bus service for the northern part of the province

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with B.C. First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

B.C. youth coach banned amid sexual harassment, bullying scandal: Water Polo Canada

Justin Mitchell can’t take part in Water Polo Canada events or clubs

Wilson-Raybould: Feds want to just ‘manage the problem’ of Indigenous Peoples

Former federal justice minister speaks at First Nations Justice Council meeting in B.C.

Island Cup set for East Sooke on May 3-5

Off-road racing event expected to attract over 50 racers

Most Read