Survivors of Tofino whale-watching incident sue tour company

German brothers accuse Jamie's Whaling Station of negligence after Leviathan II capsized last fall, leaving six dead

The Leviathan II capsized off Vargas Island near Tofino on Oct. 25

The Leviathan II capsized off Vargas Island near Tofino on Oct. 25

Two passengers who survived a whale-watching boat capsizing off the coast of Tofino last fall, killing six people, have filed a potential class-action lawsuit against the tour company, alleging negligence.

The documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court last week provide new details on the devastating incident that shocked and saddened the coastal community known for its whale-watching industry.

Christian and Dirk Barchfield say they had been on vacation last fall when they booked a whale-watching tour on Oct. 25 with Jamie’s Whaling Station.

The two brothers from Germany allege Wayne Dolby, the captain, and two other crew members aboard the Leviathan II told the 24 passengers where the life-jackets were located and how to put them on, but that they were not required to wear them.

The Barchfields claim the sea was calm enough at the start, but high waves began to crest as the vessel reached open water.

The group caught sight of some whales going by and observed for about 45 minutes before the Barchfields allege the captain decided to navigate to a different location and the boat again moved into rough water with waves more than two metres high.

“At no point were the Plaintiffs or other passengers on the open deck advised by the defendant Dolby or other crew members to either put on life jackets or to keep them easily accessible.”

Christian Barchfield claims he “watched the high waves crashing against the window and felt very uncomfortable and afraid,” while his brother alleges the crew did not demonstrate any concern about the sea conditions.

At this point, the brothers claim the vessel “tipped violently to the left and capsized.”

Dirk Barchfield claims he clung to a life ring with several other passengers while being hit by the high waves, while Christian was trapped in the lower, indoor deck, being “thrown about as though he were in a washing machine.”

Eventually, a fishing boat arrived and two men from the Ahousaht First Nation called in other boats and helped pull the survivors out of the water.

The brothers were hospitalized and treated for cuts, bruises, scratches, hypothermia and severe shock.

Six people did not survive, all from Britain, including an 18-year-old boy who’d been celebrating his birthday on a family trip.

The Barchfields are seeking general, special and punitive damages, accusing the defendants of negligence because they knew or ought to have known it was unsafe to go out in those conditions.

None of the allegations has been tested in court and a statement of defence has not been filed.

At the time of the capsizing, tour company owner Jamie Bray said the boat had made that trip all the time and that Dolby had 20 year’ experience, with the crew going through safety drills every two weeks.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Leon the squirrel gets a fancy snack of almonds and sunflower seeds from a well-meaning local, who really should be leaving Leon to his own foraging devices. (Submitted)
Squirrels don’t need your nuts, thanks

Consider birding instead of wildlife feeding, SPCA suggests

Jessica Sault of the Nuu-chah-nulth Nation is hosting a virtual cedar weaving workshop through Royal Roads University on April 25. (Black Press Media file)
Cedar trees weave deeply into lives of coastal First Nations communities

Jessica Sault of the Nuu-chah-nulth Nation hosts virtual cedar weaving workshop through Royal Roads

Titan Sparks, who attends Grade 3 at Deep Cove Elementary, plants a seedling to help replace trees damaged by climate change near Deep Cove Elementary. (Louise Beaudry/Submitted)
North Saanich school plants a seed in the fight against climate change

Students at Deep Cove Elementary plant seedlings to replace downed trees

A peacock struts by a pair of lamb siblings at the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm, which remains closed to the public. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
VIDEO: Victoria petting zoo optimistic about future after 13 months closed

Public helps non-profit Beacon Hill Children’s Farm with nearly $100,000 influx

Island Health declared a COVID-19 outbreak in two houses at the Mount St. Mary long-term care home on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Google Earth)
Island Health declares outbreak at Victoria long-term care home

Resident, staff member test positive for COVID-19 at Mount St. Mary facility

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Have rising prices caused you to give up hope of buying a home?

Do you have a spare 50 grand or so kicking around (have… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 20

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

A teacher-librarian in Nanaimo was fired in 2019 for checking out an age-inappropriate graphic novel to a student. The discipline agreement was published Wednesday, April 21. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo teacher-librarian fired for checking out too-graphic graphic novel to student

Teacher had been previously disciplined and suspended on two occasions

Aria Pendak Jefferson cuddles ChiChi, the family cat that ran away two years ago in Ucluelet. The feline was missing until Courtney Johnson and Barry Edge discovered her in the parking lot of the Canadian Princess earlier this month. Aria and her parents were reunited with ChiChi in a parking lot in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
An Island girl’s wish is answered as her cat came back

Courtenay family reunited with cat that went missing in Ucluelet in 2019

There are lots of resources for seniors looking for information about COVID-19. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
COVID questions? Here are some phone-based resources available for seniors

Here is a list of numbers to keep on hand for Vancouver Islanders who aren’t fond of computers

Chum Salmon fry being examined with multiple motile and attached sea lice on Vargas Island. (Cedar Coast Field Station photo)
Study: Tofino fish farm sea lice infestations add fuel to push to remove open pens

Ahousaht First Nation asking for higher standards than what DFO requires

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Kai Palkeinen recently helped a car stuck on the riverbed near the Big Eddy Bridge. While the car could not be saved, some of the driver’s belongings were. It’s common for vehicles to get stuck in the area due to significantly changing river levels from Revelstoke Dam. (Photo by Kai Palkeinen)
“I just sank a car’: Revelstoke resident tries to save vehicle from the Columbia River

Although it’s not permitted, the riverbed near the city is popular for off roading

Most Read