Operator dies when boom boat sinks at British Columbia lumber mill

The captain of a small tugboat died when his vessel sank in a log booming ground near Kelowna, British Columbia.

Ivor Lundin was the only person aboard the 15-foot, 120-hp Mowitch when it went down before 2100 on Jan. 30 in Okanagan Lake. The vessel was working just off the Tolko Industries lumber mill at the time and Lundin worked for the mill.

“The worker was operating a small tug called a boom boat when the boat suddenly sunk. Workers at the mill conducted a search and were not able to locate the operator,” Scott McCloy, a spokesman for WorkSafeBC, said in an email.

Local and provincial authorities responded to the lumber mill that night. Lundin’s body was found inside the tug’s wheelhouse at about 0300 on Jan. 31 and recovered later that day.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and WorkSafeBC are investigating the incident. The cause of the sinking has not been determined, and the TSB declined to comment on a possible cause.

In statements after the accident, Tolko said it was “extremely saddened” by Lundin’s death. The company offered support services to employees and pledged to cooperate with the investigation. A company spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

The Tolko mill is located along the eastern shore of Okanagan Lake in Kelowna, a city of 120,000 people between Vancouver and Calgary, Alberta. The facility has a booming ground in waters just off the mill where logs are deposited from trucks and often bundled together. Very small tugboats known as boom boats move these logs around and push them toward machinery that lifts them from the water.

Lundin was operating in the booming ground on the night of the sinking. Mill employees noticed the single-screw tugboat was missing shortly after 2100 and they reported it to authorities soon afterward. Underwater cameras were used to locate the vessel, which sank stern-first about 50 yards from shore in 13 feet of water.

“The operator was subsequently found within the cabin of the sunken boat, deceased. The operator’s body was recovered by RCMP divers,” McCloy said.

Investigators from the TSB, WorkSafeBC and other agencies oversaw the salvage of the tugboat the day after the accident.

Zillur Rahman, a TSB investigator, said the agency examined the tugboat after it was raised and interviewed mill employees as part of its inquiry. He declined to discuss other specifics about the incident, citing the ongoing investigation.

A spokesman for the RCMP declined to comment on the agency’s response.

Lundin, 57, lived in Kelowna and worked at the Tolko mill for 24 years, where the company said he was well liked. His obituary described his generosity, “beautiful soul” and his love for the water. It also said he sponsored a needy child in another country.

By Professional Mariner Staff