Islands mourn loss of chief

  • Mon Mar 10th, 2008 8:00am
  • News

Islands mourn loss of chiefHaida Gwaii is in mourning this week following the tragic loss of Chief Skidegate¬-Dempsey Collinson, who died in a boat accident on the weekend. Queen Charlotte RCMP said Mr. Collinson’s vessel, the “Haida Raider” was manoeuvering in the Queen Charlotte harbour when it struck the breakwater Sunday afternoon (March 2). The impact caused significant damage to the 55-foot vessel, which sunk within minutes of the collision. Mr. Collinson was trapped inside the wheelhouse and went down with the vessel. Police say the two crew members made several attempts to free him from the vessel. They were unable to do so. The Rescue and Coordination Centre in Victoria was called at 1:53 pm. Sandspit Coast Guard reported a vessel sinking in the QC harbour, after hearing radio traffic to that effect, according to Mike Stacey, maritime search and rescue coordinator. Local Coast Guard members arrived on the scene at 2:15 pm. Mr. Stacey said their tracking of the incident includes a report that the tug North Arm Diligence was at the scene and crew tried to chop a hole in the roof of the sinking boat’s cabin. Mr. Stacey said two crew members were helped aboard the tug and taken to hospital with signs of hypothermia. RCMP and Coast Guard divers were called, but Mr. Collinson’s body was recovered by a local diver before they arrived. As of Tuesday afternoon, the vessel was still under water. Arrangements to raise it are underway and pollution containment efforts are being made in the meantime. The vessel could have contained up to 565 gallons of diesel fuel when it sank. Police are continuing to investigate. They say alcohol has not been ruled out as a possible contributing factor. Chief Skidegate-Dempsey Collinson was an experienced seaman and skipper, who fished the waters around Haida Gwaii all his life. He was born in 1928 and had been chief Skidegate for more than thirty years.