March 22, 2006 was a dark day for those aboard the Queen of the North, which struck an underwater ledge off Gil Island, 135 kilometres south of Prince Rupert.
Captain of the ship Colin Henthorne reveals a first-hand account of what really happened that night in his latest book The Queen of the North Disaster.
“I explain in the book how the ship is manned, how it’s run. It’s a car-carrying passenger ship. It’s not the same as the ferries you’re probably most familiar with on the southern coast,” said Henthorne, adding that it looks similar in appearance to a cruise ship of a certain era.
With 101 people on board, two have never been found and are presumed dead.
“We evacuated the ship with no outside assistance whatsoever. The assistance that came was after we were well clear of the ship and we were in rafts and boats and not in any danger,” said Henthorne.
The ship was a BC Ferries passenger vessel.
Following the disaster, Helmswoman Karen Briker was fired and fourth mate Karl Lilgert was charged with criminal negligence causing death. He was sentenced to four years in prison.
Henthorne was not on watch at the time of the sinking, although he said the captain is not on the bridge most of the time, only when required.
“So we have four officers that do the navigating. At least one is on the bridge, sometimes two. The captain goes on the bridge as he feels fit,” he said.
In recalling what happened the night of the devastating sinking, Henthorne said he didn’t start writing his story as a book, but started writing that same day.
When he was taken to Prince Rupert and put into a hotel room for four days, he jotted down all the details of what happened so he wouldn’t forget. Shortly thereafter, he was having to write in response to the investigations.
“They did send a submersible down and got the hard drive out of the navigation computer,” he said.
He said investigators interviewed many people several times, and him at least three times. His story, he said, is one of many, but it’s the first to be written for the public to see and is his firsthand account of the incident and his response to what has been said about the sinking.
This is Henthorne’s first book and he said when he writes things, they have to be in response to something, And the sinking of the ship, he said, was a big thing.
“I started writing because I had to write.”
Henthorne currently lives in North Saanich and is a rescue co-ordinator with the Coast Guard.