The tragic fishing boat accident off the southern coast of Vancouver Island early Tuesday morning that left two dead has left a few others wondering if it could have been them instead.
Two men who were supposed to crew the boat decided to leave money on the table and walk away before it hit the open ocean.
Raymond and Anthony Dixon, twins from the Nanaimo area, were on board the Arctic Fox II as new deck hands with Captain Tom Lindberg when they sailed out of Cowichan Bay Marina on Sunday, Aug. 2.
Originally, there was another deckhand, Jessie Gilbert, who had actually recruited Raymond. But the day before Raymond was due to arrive in Cowichan Bay, Gilbert had to go home sick. So Raymond recruited Anthony, who was hired immediately. It would have been the 19-year-old brothers’ first commercial fishing trip.
They’d spent two nights preparing the vessel, stocking groceries. When they said goodbye, they were headed for the open ocean, planning only to stop in Ucluelet for fuel.
But mechanical issues with the hydraulic pump that runs a pulley system forced them to stop in Victoria that night.
Early the next morning, Anthony woke up vomiting and apprehensive. He had a terrible feeling about the trip, and didn’t want to go. Raymond said he had been excited for the trip, but his brother convinced him to leave. They waited until Lindberg was asleep Sunday night, and slipped off the boat.
“We didn’t tell him, we didn’t do nothing. We just packed our bags and snuck out of there,” Raymond said.
Listening to that bad feeling could have saved their lives.
It was a week later on Aug. 11 at 2 a.m. that a mayday call from the Arctic Fox II was received by the U.S Coast Guard. The boat was taking on water off the coast of Cape Flattery, the northwest corner of Washington state. The three people aboard were suiting up in survival suits and preparing to abandon ship
The Dixons had tried on those suits before leaving Cowichan Bay.
“They were survival suits, but they were old. The seams were cracking, the glue was all dried up,” Raymond said. He recalled waxing the zippers, hoping it helped the next guys.
To his inexperienced eyes, the boat itself seemed old, too.
“There was lots of stuff going wrong. Everything from loose beams in the upper deck, loose railings, the stabilizer cables were all worn out,” he said.
“People were asking, you guys are going out fishing on that thing? We just shrugged it off. Let’s go out and make some money, we were promised good money.”
Gilbert, who bowed out before leaving Cowichan Bay, had noticed the boat listing to one side, which could have been because of an uneven load, or it could have been water. He said Lindberg ran the bilge pumps constantly, which he found unusual.
Gilbert has commercially fished tuna for seven seasons, and has his red seal net ticket, meaning he’s got training to respond to emergencies. He helped Lindberg prepare the wooden boat for the season, and had noticed several things that needed repair.
The boat was owned by Teague Fishing Corporation and registered in Shawnigan Lake. Black Press Media had not been able to reach the owners as of the time of this posting.
“We are grieving the loss of crew aboard the vessel and extend our heartfelt condolences to the families,” the Teague Fishing Corporation said in a statement released to CTV News Wednesday.
One person was rescued from a life raft by helicopter early in the morning of Aug. 11. The B.C. Coroners Service has confirmed that two crew members died. Both bodies were flown to Victoria where an investigation is underway.
”Our fact-finding investigation will look to determine cause of death and, if possible, may make recommendations aimed at preventing death in similar circumstances,” the coroner’s office wrote in a statement.
Names have not been released by the coroner, however friends have confirmed that Lindberg was one of the men who died.
“I have no words to explain the way I’m feeling,” the twins’ mother Rae-Lynn McIntyre said. “I am grateful my only children were not on that vessel that night, however I’m deeply saddened for the loss of life and my heart goes out to the families and friends of the two lives lost in this tragedy.”
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