TOFINO, British Columbia — Investigators are trying to unravel the mystery of what caused a whale-watching boat to capsize off Vancouver Island in seemingly calm weather, killing five British nationals including a father and his teenage son. A fisherman who was among the first rescuers on the scene offered a clue, saying a survivor told him that a sudden wave capsized the boat.

A search continued for a missing Australian man. Twenty-one people were rescued.

The British Columbia Coroners Service on Tuesday afternoon identified the five victims, two of whom were British nationals living in Canada. They are David Thomas, 50, and his 18-year-old son Stephen, from Swindon in southern England; Katie Taylor, 29, of Whistler, British Columbia; Nigel Francis Hooker, 63, of Southampton, England; and Jack Slater, 76, of Toronto.

The Down Syndrome Association UK said in a statement that David Thomas was a “huge supporter” of the organization and “one of the driving forces behind the Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group, where he was a trustee.”

Stephen Thomas, who had Down syndrome, “was a very talented young man and a gifted photographer,” the association said in a statement.

“His love of photography started when he was eight years old. We were all delighted when Stephen’s beautiful image Moraine Lake won the national My Perspective photographic competition last year,” the association said.

“All of our thoughts and condolences are with the Thomas family at this terrible time,” the group added.

Microsoft UK said David Thomas was an employee. “Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with their family, friends and David’s colleagues and we will be doing everything we can to support them,” the company said.

Investigators will review the weather, wreckage and the maintenance history of the 65-foot Leviathan II to determine why it capsized Sunday afternoon, said Marc Andre Poisson, director of Marine Investigations for Canada’s Transportation Safety Board. He said the investigation could take months.

NO TIME TO SIGNAL MAYDAY

A senior employee of Jamie’s Whaling Station, the company operating the boat, said the vessel sank so quickly the crew didn’t have time to issue a mayday call. The crew shot flares from the water, which attracted the attention of local aboriginal fishermen who rushed to help rescue people, said Corene Inouye, the company’s director of operations.

The boat capsized about 8 nautical miles off Tofino, a popular destination for whale watchers.

Fisherman Clarence Smith said he was reeling his lines for halibut when his friend saw a flare shoot in the sky. They raced to the scene in their small boat, and saw people in life rafts, in the water and on rocks. They first helped a man who was clinging to the side of the boat, taking eight minutes to get him on board. He was unresponsive, and tangled in a line.

Then they rescued two women who were clinging to each other, and finally got 10 people on the life raft onto their boat. Among those they picked up were a pregnant woman and a woman with a broken leg.

“The lady was saying that a wave just capsized them. That’s why there weren’t any communications on the radio, no mayday,” Smith said.

Jamie Bray, the owner of Jamie’s Whaling Station, said the boat sank in an area it goes to every day.


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