Ferry Malaspina rescues one from sinking landing craft

The Alaska Marine Highway System ferry Malaspina picked up an extra passenger in the waters off Vancouver Island on Saturday morning.

According to accounts from Marine Highway spokesman Jeremy Woodrow and Lt. Cmdr. Desmond James of the Royal Canadian Navy, the Malaspina rescued one of three people aboard a landing craft that overturned off the town of Campbell River.

“They were able to rescue one of the crewmembers from the water,” Woodrow said.

The other two people are missing and presumed dead.

According to the Canadian Forces’ Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Victoria, British Columbia, the 67-foot landing craft was about three miles north of Campbell River, in Discovery Passage on the east side of Vancouver Island, when its three-man crew sent a distress call about 2:45 a.m. Pacific Time.

Less than five minutes later, the landing craft sank about a half-mile from shore. The Malaspina, sailing from Bellingham, Washington to Alaska, was nearby and responded to the distress call.

“The ferry picked up one person using their fast boat,” Lt. Cmdr. Jones said. “That person was transported to the Canadian Coast Guard lifeboat Cape Palmerston and to shore.”

Emergency responders on shore lit the shoreline with car headlights to guide any other survivors while a Canadian Forces helicopter and other boats conducted an unsuccessful at-sea search.

According to an account in Victoria’s Times-Colonist newspaper, police plan a dive to learn the cause of the sinking.

This isn’t the first time the Malaspina has been involved in a dramatic rescue. In June 2011, the Malaspina was a mile outside Skagway when people on board heard cries for help from a hiker who had fallen off a steep cliff and into chilly Taiya Inlet.

In 1998, the Malaspina’s crew used one of the ship’s small boats to rescue two overturned kayakers stuck in Auke Bay.

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