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March 16, 2010

Navigating officer charged in Queen of North deaths

Four years after the sinking of BC Ferries Queen of the North, Karl Lilgert, the navigating officer responsible for steering the vessel at the time, was charged on Tuesday morning in British Columbia Provincial Court in Vancouver with criminal negligence causing death.

The Queen of the North veered off course on its run to Port Hardy from Prince Rupert and hit the northeast side of Gil Island in Wright Sound at 12:22 a.m on March 22, 2006. Fifty-seven passengers and 42 crew members abandoned ship before it sank, but two people -- Shirley Rosette and Gerald Foisy -- were never found and were declared dead.

This is the first time in Canada someone has been charged criminally for a marine collision involving a passenger ferry, according to spokesman for the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch.

"Mr. Lilgert has been charged on the basis that he was the navigating officer responsible for steering of the vessel at the time of the incident," the spokesman is quoted as saying. He added that the evidence presented after an exhaustive RCMP investigation does not support charges against anyone other than Lilgert.

Defense lawyer Glenn Orris said Lilgert will plead not guilty when he appears in court in Vancouver April 14.

He was released on $5,000 bail on the conditions that he does not come in contact with 17 listed crew members, abstains from operating a vessel in a professional capacity and attends the Grand Forks RCMP detachment within a week for fingerprinting and photographing.

The sinking of the Queen of the North was the subject of investigations by both Canada's Transportation Safety Board (you can access the report HERE) and BC Ferries (you can access that report HERE).


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