U.S. fishing boat collides with Canadian navy ship
Published Tuesday, April 23, 2013 2:49PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 23, 2013 9:37PM EDT
VICTORIA -- A huge American factory-fishing trawler smashed into a docked navy frigate, sending a wall of waves over the bows of both vessels in a spectacular morning crash, say witnesses.
The B.C. Ambulance Service confirmed six civilians were taken to hospital following the incident at about 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Electrician Rob Patterson was on the warship when it was struck.
"Extremely unnerving being below decks when the impact happened," Patterson said in an email. "We were thrown about the work areas with tools and equipment being tossed amongst us."
The American Seafoods Company "American Dynasty" vessel sits seemingly embedded in the docked HMCS Winnipeg, which has just undergone a massive refit and systems upgrade.
The American trawler was originally attached to two tug boats, said Larry Edwards of the Esquimalt public works department.
He later noticed just one tug on the port side of trawler's bow was helping it to swivel.
Then, "whatever happened, it happened fairly quickly. It wasn't even a couple of minutes when the tug backed off in a hurry and very quickly, within 15 to 20 seconds, we heard the boom and the wall of water rushed over the Winnipeg's bow," Edwards said.
The trawler came in hard, Edwards said, and the subsequent dull boom of the two enormous ships colliding rang out over the harbour.
Then sirens began blaring.
"The Winnipeg got pushed back considerably," Edwards said. "You could see it move. The body of the Winnipeg must have been pushed back at least 20 feet or more. It was a hard enough hit to push it backwards even though it was tied up.
"The wave came up over the Winnipeg and back onto the jetty. It was quite a tidal wall of water that came up over left side of the bow. It was pretty impressive."
Patterson said emergency crews did a great job of getting the injured off the boat to medical aid.
Department of National Defence and Victoria shipyard personnel "were extremely helpful, thorough and competent," Patterson said. "Help for the injured was fast and well co-ordinated."
CFB Esquimalt spokeswoman Capt. Annie Djiotsa confirmed the collision at "C" jetty did not result in injuries to "any Canadian Forces member."
There is not yet a preliminary estimate of the damage to the warship or possible damage to the jetty, one of three main docks.
"A damage assessment has begun. An investigation into the incident is ongoing," said Jay Paxton, a spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay, in an email.
The trawler company issued a statement but gave no insight about what caused the dramatic crash.
"The cause of the collision is currently under investigation," said a statement issued by Matthew Latimer. "American Seafoods and the vessel crew are co-operating fully with Canadian and U.S. authorities."
Selwyn Buss of Base Construction Engineering said he heard a "big bang" and looked out his window in time to see two waves, one over the bow of the fishing trawler and a subsequent wave over the bow of the frigate.
"It was a couple of storeys high wave," Buss said. He could see everyone running on the jetty. The frigate appeared to drive into the jetty, he said. "Everyone was in shock at first."
Overlooking the aftermath of the crash, Buss said, "it looks like the two are locked together."
CFB Esquimalt wouldn't say whether there is a hole in the hull of the warship or if the two vessels are just resting against one another.
There is no official information on how or when the trawler will be extracted from the warship.
American Seafoods Company, established in 1987, is a subsidiary of American Seafoods Group, which manages a fleet of factory trawlers.
On board factory trawlers, fish is caught, processed and frozen. The vessels average more than 90 metres in length.