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.

Just Posted

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Karl and Stephanie Ann Johanson were thrilled to spot a pair of Sandhill Cranes in the Panama Flats this month, an unusual appearance for such birds. (Photo by Stephanie Ann Johanson)
WATCH: Sandhill cranes an unusual, joyful sight in Saanich parkland

The birds don’t often touch down in the south of the Island

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

(Victoria Cool Aid Society/Facebook)
Victoria food drive aims to feed those also struggling with housing

Quadra Village furniture store hosting drive-thru event Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Victoria police are asking for witnesses who might have information about this tricycle that was stolen in downtown Victoria on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Police seek witnesses after downtown Victoria company’s tricycle stolen

The three-wheeler was taken from the 2100-block of Store Street on Thursday

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Freighters have becomd abundant in the Trincomali Channel on the east side of Thetis Island.
Nanaimo ponders taking on waste from nearby anchored freighters

Vancouver-based Tymac petitioning the Regional District of Nanaimo to accept waste at its landfill

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

Most Read