British Columbia landing craft flips, killing two; ferry rescues teen

Two men drowned when a 65-foot steel landing craft capsized along the British Columbia coast.

Atlantic Harvester 1 overturned early Oct. 18 in Discovery Passage, three miles north of Campbell River on Vancouver Island.

Atlantic Harvester 1 was returning from its work tending salmon farms in the Broughton Archipelago north of the area when it started taking on water shortly before 0300. The captain radioed Vessel Traffic Services that he was heading for shore to beach the vessel when it capsized.

The captain of the vessel, 34-year-old Barry Sewid, and 29-year-old deck hand Mike Kelly went down with the vessel and their bodies were recovered later. The sole survivor of the sinking was Kyle Benoit, 18. 

Built in 1988 by Jenkins Marine Ltd., in Victoria, B.C., the vessel is owned by Harold Sewid’s Qwe’Qwa’Sot’em Faith Aquaculture Ltd. According to aquaculture company Marine Harvest’s website, Qwe’Qwa’Sot’em Faith Aquaculture has provided Marine Harvest with a variety of support services for more than a decade.

“Kyle was sleeping when they started to realize something was wrong,” Harold Sewid said, explaining that at one point all three were in wheelhouse. “Kyle went down to get his clothes on and he got yelled at to come back upstairs, that they were in a bad way, when Mike went downstairs for some reason.”

As Benoit explained it to Sewid, he was reaching for the cabinet where the life jackets and immersion suits were stored when the boat rolled over to starboard with such a force that the window imploded and water flooded into the wheelhouse. When he tried to go to the wheelhouse door, the door hit him and knocked him back inside.

“There was such water pressure, the door popped open and Barry pushed Kyle up toward the opening of the door and Kyle climbed through,” Sewid said. “Mike was trying to come back upstairs and the water hit him and pushed him down and he screamed, and that was the last (seen of him).”

Benoit climbed onto the overturned hull until it sank from under him. He swam toward some floating debris until he was rescued by the crew of a Zodiac launched by the passing Alaska ferry Malaspina.

Sewid said the whole episode occurred swiftly. 

“At the beginning, Barry called in to (Vessel Traffic Services) and said that they were turning to beach the boat and a minute after that, it was gone,” he said. 

Sewid said he continues to be puzzled by the sinking, as he had been using the vessel without incident for 15 years.
“I couldn’t even begin to guess what happened. The boat has nine watertight, airtight compartments in the hull,” he said. “They are all separate. It just doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Winds were calm and there was a low swell at the time of the capsizing.

Canadian Coast Guard motor lifeboats Cape Palmerston and Cape Caution and Coast Guard ship Bartlett were tasked to the scene, as were Malaspina and a Royal Canadian Air Force Cormorant R 909 helicopter. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the local fire department conducted shoreline searches.

The sunken vessel was located by a remotely operated vessel. The bodies of the deceased were recovered Oct. 22 by a RCMP dive team with the assistance of RCMP West Coast Marine Service and the RCMP vessel PV Higgit.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada and Worksafe B.C. continue to investigate.

By Professional Mariner Staff