'We had a gut feeling': Sailors quit B.C. fishing boat days before it sunk
VICTORIA -- Two deckhands say they are happy to be alive after turning down a job on a B.C. fishing vessel that sunk off the coast of Vancouver Island, claiming the lives of two people aboard on Tuesday.
Raymond Dixon says he and his brother, who were hired as deckhands on the Arctic Fox II earlier this summer, decided to walk off the job due to concerns about the vessel and its captain, Tom Lindberg.
“Basically, we were going to the Pacific. No plans to stop, maybe in Ucluelet for fuel," said Dixon.
But then, shortly after the ship set sail in early August, Dixon says it had to stop in Victoria unexpectedly for repairs.
As the ship was being serviced, the brothers recalled some advice they had been given by the company that owned the fishing vessel, Teague Fishing Corporation.
They said the company told them that the captain of the Arctic Fox II had difficulty seeing other boats and would sometimes fall asleep at the wheel.
“We were warned that Tom is blind and can’t see boats,” said Dixon. “(We were told) if you see boats let him know, and that he falls asleep at the wheel.”
Another former deckhand aboard the Arctic Fox II, Jessie Gilbert, claims the skipper was prone to falling asleep on the job.
“There were some red flags that I didn’t want a part of,” he told CTV News.
After the Arctic Fox II went in for repairs in Victoria, the brothers decided to call it quits on the expedition.
“We had a gut feeling,” said Dixon. “It just didn’t seem like a boat, especially to put myself and my bother on. It didn’t seem right.”
On Tuesday, the ship took on water and three people aboard, Lindberg and two new deckhands, abandoned ship.
Two of the three onboard died, according to the BC Coroners Service, including Lindberg.
The condition of the third person onboard is unknown, but he was found alive in a lifeboat by the U.S. Coast Guard and has since been flown to Victoria.
“We are grieving the loss of crew aboard the vessel and extend our heartfelt condolences to the families,” said Teague Fishing Corporation in a statement Wednesday.
A spokesperson for Teague tells CTV News the company denies ever warning the brothers about the boat or its captain, and denies "any wrongdoing whatsoever."
The Cowichan Bay community, where the Arctic Fox II was based, is now grieving for the lives that were lost Tuesday.
“It’s tough for sure,” said Mark Mercer, harbour manager of the Cowichan Bay Fisherman’s Wharf.
“You can’t speculate about what would have happened out there,” he said. “I’ve been out there, offshore for years myself and there are some days you’re not really sure how it’s all going to pan out.”
The specifics of what happened on Tuesday are not yet known. WorkSafe BC is investigating the incident.