A former couple steering a ferry were apparently distracted by conversation as their ship was about to run aground, Canada's Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday in its final report on a crash that killed two passengers.
Fishing boats from an Indian village rescued 99 passengers and crew members after the Queen of the North hit Gil Island off Canada's Pacific Coast and drifted for 77 minutes before sinking March 22, 2006.
The ship was moving nearly 20 mph in reduced visibility when a course alteration should have been made, the report said. Fifteen minutes later, it struck Gil Island.
"While we do not know exactly what the crew was doing on the bridge minute by minute ... I can tell you they were not following sound watch-keeping practices," said Capt. Pierre Murray, a senior safety-board marine investigator.
Fourth Officer Karl Lilgert and Quartermaster Karen Bricker had ended a relationship two weeks before the accident and were working their first shift alone together since the breakup, the report said.
The two were fired after an investigation by B.C. Ferries.