Tug company, senior official charged in fatal 2021 sinking off northwest B.C. coast

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PRINCE RUPERT, B.C. — Charges have now been laid against a tug and barge company and one of its senior officials two years after a tug sank off British Columbia’s coasts south of Kitimat, killing the captain and one crew member. 

Court documents show a total of eight counts have been laid against Wainwright Marine Services and James Bates, the president of Bates Properties Ltd., which includes Wainwright Marine as one of its operations.

The charges relate to alleged violations of occupational health and safety regulations under the Workers Compensation Act, and court records show a first appearance is scheduled next month in a Prince Rupert courtroom.

Fifty-eight-year-old tug captain Troy Pearson and 25-year-old crew member Charley Cragg died, while a third crew member survived, when the tug Ingenika went down in a storm in February 2021 while towing a barge.

Transport Canada’s website shows Wainwright and Bates Properties were fined a total of $62,000 last year for violations that included not ensuring enough properly trained crew members were aboard the Ingenika.

The Transportation Safety Board initially completed a brief probe of the sinking but after a 10,000-name petition was submitted by Pearson’s widow, the case was expanded to a Class 3 investigation, meaning it “may have significant consequences that attract a high level of public interest.”

The board’s website shows the investigation is now in the report phase, but a release date has not yet been scheduled.

Family members of the victims also want the Ingenika to be raised from the bottom of the Gardner Canal on B.C.’s central coast, in part because the tug sank with 3,500 litres of diesel fuel aboard, but also because they believe the wreckage could indicate possible malfunctions, deficiencies or instability.

Transport Canada has said it would support the recovery, if directed by the safety board, but warned the tug lies at a depth that could complicate the effort.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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