What everyone has been waiting for!
Well not really, I am more interested in what TSB has to say, but they have been pipped at the post by the Ferry Corp. Can it be an attempt to get the Public Relations Wheels turning before the TSB report? There is no mention of the new electronic bridge equipment and lack of training that was alleged in earlier news soon after the sinking. Maybe this is in the complete BCFC report, which I haven't had a chance to go on the hunt for.
This news broadcast makes for more questions then answers.
Notice however, despite the numerous rumours floating about in the industry, Sex on the Bridge is not mentioned!
A quartermaster with minimal training was allegedly left in charge of the Queen of the North when it crashed last year, says an explosive new report released Wednesday by BC Ferries.
But the same report adds that Karen Bricker denies that she was left alone on the bridge.
Bricker had been a part-time cleaner just a year before she found herself at the helm of the $50 million vessel, and responsible for the lives of more than 100 people.
But BC Ferries CEO David Hahn said he was more troubled about Bricker allegedly being left alone, rather than her lack of experience.
"I think it's more shocking that anyone would leave anyone in that position," he told CTV British Columbia.
Of the other two bridge officers, Second Officer Keven Hilton has said he was on a lunch break at the time, but it's unclear where Fourth Officer Karl Lilgert was during the crash.
Ninety-nine passengers and crew were rescued when the stricken ship slammed into Gil Island and sank in March 2006, but two B.C. residents failed to escape.
In the new addendum to a March 2007 report, BC Ferries said two unidentified employees came forward recently with the new information.
Both claim to have heard the on-watch quartermaster say, shortly following the grounding, that she was alone.
The first employee claims the quartermaster twice said, "It was not my fault, I was left alone."
The second employee claims to have heard Bricker say, "It's not my fault, I was alone, I was alone."
The report also says the quartermaster had worked as a deckhand since 2005 and was considered a "person under training" for the bridge.
"At no time should the officer of the watch leave the bridge, unless he or she is properly relieved by another qualified navigating officer," said Capt. Bob Kitching of the Maritime Education Association.
He added that a quartermaster "would not be considered a qualified person."
BC Ferries says the sworn statutory declarations expose what was probably a significant factor in the sinking.
No response from Karl Lilgert
Lilgert refused to talk to the media on Wednesday, while his lawyer questioned why BC Ferries took the two statements about Bricker's comments seriously.
"Who are these people, these two independent people, who have sworn these statements?" he asked. "And why does BC Ferries find them to be credible?"
The original report in March concluded that the three members of the bridge crew failed to make an important course correction, allowing the ship to head right into the island. It also said the crew had lost "situational awareness.''
BC Ferries fired all three employees in late April -- none of whom agreed to talk to investigators. The quartermaster answered some, but not all, questions.
The new revelations do "not change the original findings of the Divisional Inquiry that the Queen of the North deck watch failed to maintain a proper lookout by all available means," BC Ferries maintained Wednesday.
The B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers' Union said it wouldn't comment on the new report until the Transportation Safety Board issues its independent report.
"We'd like it over and done with because it's very traumatic for everybody concerned," said union spokesperson Richard Goode, "whether it's the public, whether it's the people that travel, whether it's the union members that were directly affected that were on that ship, the one's that were on that bridge, and the union.''
Hahn said Hilton and Lilgert came forward because they thought the original report had missed important information.
"I think it takes a bit of courage to do this, you know, to step forward and make these kind of statements, but they felt it was appropriate, important and pointed it out to the company,'' Hahn told The Canadian Press.
Family members frustrated
Shirley Rosette and Gerald Foisy, a B.C. couple taking their first trip on a ferry, were never found after the accident.
Family members told CTV British Columbia's Julia Foy Tuesday that they were frustrated at the length of time it's taken to find answers.
Despite speculation that the Transportation Safety Board report would be released before the end of this month, family members were told three weeks ago that it would likely take another couple of months.
Civil lawsuits have been filed over the sinking. Several passengers have claimed they suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, although there were few reported injuries.
The Queen of the North will be replaced by the Northern Expedition, expected to be built at the FSG shipyard in Flensburg, Germany.
It's unclear when the Northern Expedition will arrive in B.C.
The following is an excerpt from Declarant #1's statutory declaration:
"I saw (the Quartermaster) on the deck near the lifeboats where we were both assisting. Just prior to us both getting into one of the rafts (the Quartermaster) said: 'It is not my fault, it was not my fault, I was left alone.'"
And, while in the life raft with the Quartermaster: "I was sitting not far from (the Quartermaster). I recall (the Quartermaster) again saying: 'It was not my fault, I was alone.'"
"When we watched the Queen of the North disappear under the water I heard (the Quartermaster) say again: 'It was not my fault' and repeat it."
The following are excerpts from Declarant #2's statutory declaration:
"Once our raft was away, it started to drift towards the stern of the vessel and at that point I could hear (the Quartermaster) talking to herself saying, 'It's not my fault, it's not my fault, oh my God.' I could see that (the Quartermaster) was becoming a bit distressed."
"I proceeded to get (the Quartermaster) outside of the raft to act as a lookout to distance (the Quartermaster) from the passengers. At that time, I heard (the Quartermaster) say, 'It's not my fault, I was alone, I was alone.' When (the Quartermaster) made that statement, because I was not then aware that (the Quartermaster) had been part of the bridge crew, I did not put it into context."
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Julia Foy
Labels: Queen of the North