RCMP re-examines ferry sinking case: Crown
The RCMP is taking a second run at its criminal investigation into the sinking of the Queen of the North, says a spokesman with B.C.'s criminal justice division.
The RCMP has been investigating whether any crime was committed in connection with the sinking of the ferry two years ago that killed passengers Shirley Rosette and Gerald Foisy.
Criminal justice branch spokesman Neil MacKenzie said his division received a report from the Mounties recently, but sent it back with suggestions for further investigation.
"We determined some further investigation was required and asked the police to undertake that,'' he said. "We're not in a position to pursue the charge assessment until that is all completed and we have all the evidence.''
MacKenzie said he couldn't discuss the specifics of the RCMP's investigation, but noted it is not unusual for a probe to undergo several reviews before a decision is made on whether or not to lay charges.
"We are the ones that approve charges that are provided to us or review files that are provided to us by the RCMP,'' he said.
A Transportation Safety Board report into the disaster released this week did not explain exactly what happened on the bridge the night the Queen of the North hit an island at full speed and sank.
The report prompted calls for a public inquiry or some other judicial process with teeth after the highly anticipated report failed to solve the mystery of the sinking.
The federal agency's report said the crew of the doomed ferry wasn't following basic safe sailing practices the night it sank.
The board made recommendations to bump up safety for ship passengers across Canada and ensure investigators never again face the kinds of questions and uncertainty raised in the Queen of the North tragedy.
The safety board recommended installing voyage data recorders on large Canadian vessels, similar to aircraft black boxes, as well as improving crew training for emergencies and procedures for keeping track of passengers.
The board concluded the two crew members who were navigating the ship were having a personal conversation and failed to make a crucial course correction.
The two crew members, Karl Lilgert and Karen Bricker, had been involved in a previous romantic relationship, but it had recently ended.
The TSB report did not elaborate on the details of the conversation between Bricker and Lilgert, who other than talking to the board investigators have been virtually silent since the sinking.
Lilgert issued a statement following the release of the TSB report that said: "I regret this tragic accident occurred and its impact on all involved.''
An RCMP spokesman said he could not confirm if the Mounties interviewed Bricker and Lilgert as part of their ongoing investigation. But he did say that the interviews conducted by the TSB are confidential and could not be used by the RCMP.
"The Transportation Safety Board does not turn over their information to us. We conduct our own investigation,'' Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre said.
He said the RCMP has faced challenges and obstacles in their investigation, but would not elaborate.
"We feel that the public will get the answers that they are looking for once we give the Crown what it is that they need to complete their part of the work, their charge assessment,'' said Lemaitre. "We don't want to put a timeline on this.''
A Transport Canada spokesman said the federal agency could take action under the Canada Shipping Act at the conclusion of its investigation.
The act allows Transport Canada to suspend licences and certifications that permit people to operate ships, said spokesman Patrick Charette.
"We're obviously working with the RCMP on the ongoing investigation and circumstances, and we'll see,'' he said. "As soon as the players are ready to act, usually we act, but it takes time.''
Vancouver lawyer David Varty said he has the power to force the silent crew members to talk and he plans to use it. David Varty has launched a class-action lawsuit on behalf of the 49 passengers who survived the sinking.
He said Lilgert and Bricker are scheduled to provide evidence this year at court hearings and testify next February at the upcoming civil trial.