It felt like an earthquake, says islander

  • Mar. 24, 2006 12:00 p.m.

When Margaret Condrotte of Tlell was awoken from her sleep March 22, she thought it was an earthquake shaking the walls, Heather Ramsay writes.
But she heard another bang and remembered she was on the Queen of the North, heading from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy.
“Then it was dead quiet,” she says and in a moment came the hollering. She opened her cabin door and saw the commotion in the hallway, pulled her jeans on under her night gown, grabbed a jacket and headed to the deck.
When she realized she’d forgotten her life jacket she returned to her room and decided to grab her purse as well.
The lights were, by this time, out and she scrambled around looking for her earrings to no avail. Then a crew member came along and hustled her on deck.
“I never dreamed I wouldn’t be able to go back for my things,” she said.
Even after she and 21 others crawled into a rubber lifeboat that quickly distanced itself from the mother ship, she still couldn’t fathom what was happening.
“I still kept thinking it wasn’t going down,” she said from her son’s house in Port McNeil, where she spent the weekend after her harrowing experience.
She watched the boat go straight into the air. “And then it went down and that was the end of it,” she says.
She was in Hartley Bay when she made a call back to the islands waking Jim Abbott at 3 am to tell him the news. It wasn’t until 6 pm that evening when she got to a phone again. By this time she’d been ferried on the coast guard ship to Prince Rupert and was safe and sound in The Crest Hotel.
The boat ride was uneventful, but it didn’t stop Ms Condrotte from feeling uneasy every time the vessel rocked from side to side or the crew started talking a lot on the radio.
Ms Condrotte says she doesn’t remember seeing the missing couple aboard the Queen of the North or in the waiting room in Prince Rupert.
She also says the seas were not heavy seas, as reported. It was raining heavily but the lifeboats weren’t being tossed about.
“Nobody even got sick,” she says.
She was very impressed by the treatment passengers received in Prince Rupert and of course the swift actions of the crew.
The only other people Ms Condrotte recognized aboard the Queen of the North were Ernie and Sandy Thomson of Port Clements.
BC Ferries contracted Hawk Air to take passengers to several destinations. Ms Condrotte got off in Port Hardy and the Thomson’s flew onto Campbell River where they were going to rent a car and visit family before heading to Vancouver.
Ms Condrotte’s vehicle was not aboard the ferry, but the Thomson’s lost a truck.