Man overboard on ferry near Bowen Island prompts extensive search and recovery effort

BC Ferries passenger Kevin Adhika shared photos of some of the vessels involved in the search and recovery effort on Twitter. (@KevinAdhika/Twitter)

A person overboard on a BC Ferries vessel on Sunday afternoon saw an extensive search and rescue effort on the water.

A spokesperson for the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre says a call for help came in from the Queen of Cowichan around 1:30 p.m.

“There was a man overboard, just off Bowen Island,” she said.

The ship had departed from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver around 1 p.m. and had been heading to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.

“Ultimately, our CMSAR (team) did recover the person,” she continued, noting that the search was called off shortly after 2 p.m.

The spokesperson stopped short of saying the man had died, however the term “recovery” is generally used to describe the point at which a search crew finds and removes a person’s dead body.

Ferry passenger Kevin Adhika, who posted photos of the search and recovery efforts on Twitter, believes the man died.

Adhika says that he and his wife were seated in a passenger lounge at the back of the boat when a man on an outside deck jumped overboard.

“Someone about 10 feet to my right said something about a man jumping and he said he saw it out of the corner of his eye.”

Adhika had been looking down at his phone and hasn't seen it happen.

“I looked up and my wife pointed her finger to the man in the water, it was – you know, just the head and two arms, sort of flailing about.”

The boat then began turning around, and Adhika says he could see that crew members were jumping into action.

Soon after, coast guard and other nearby boats started arriving on the scene to help.

Photos show that multiple search and rescue boats of varying sizes attended to the incident, as well as a helicopter.

Adhika said there were announcements made asking anyone who saw anything to speak to the ship’s chief steward.

In a statement, BC Ferries acknowledged the incident as a “medical emergency experienced by one of our customers, which required immediate attention.”

The company then explained that the incident had caused a one-hour delay in future sailings and apologized for “any inconvenience you may experience as a result of this delay.”

Adhika went out onto the passenger deck during the search and recovery mission and took photos. He and his wife went down to their car afterward, as the boat continued on its way to Nanaimo after the incident.

The mood in the passenger areas upstairs was heavy, he said.

“It was pretty somber, some people were pretty upset and some of the passengers that I observed were trying to console each other, and some of them were just in pure shock and disbelief.”

“Obviously, it’s difficult to make sense of it … it’s just shocking what happened. You know, I certainly didn’t wake up this morning anticipating anything like that.”