Widow wants sunken tugboat recovered, hopes it holds answers about husband's death

·2 min read
Judy Carlick-Pearson, left, her son Carver and her late husband Troy Pearson. Pearson died Feb. 11 after the tugboat Ingenika capsized while towing a barge in the Gardner Canal just off the coast of Kitimat.   (Photo submitted by Judy Carlick-Pearson. - image credit)
Judy Carlick-Pearson, left, her son Carver and her late husband Troy Pearson. Pearson died Feb. 11 after the tugboat Ingenika capsized while towing a barge in the Gardner Canal just off the coast of Kitimat. (Photo submitted by Judy Carlick-Pearson. - image credit)

The widow of a mariner who died on B.C.'s North Coast is looking for answers and closure surrounding the circumstances of her husband's death.

Judy Carlick-Pearson is asking the Canadian Coast Guard to raise the tugboat Ingenika, which sank Feb. 11 while pulling a large barge in the Gardner Canal just south of Kitimat.

Carlick-Pearson's husband, Troy Pearson, and crew member Charley Cragg were both killed in the accident. A third crew member, Zac Dolan, was rescued after washing ashore.

"Honestly, it's minute by minute, second by second some days," said Carlick-Pearson in an interview with CBC Daybreak North host Carolina DeRyk. "My son and I take turns being the cheerleader in the house to try and get through a moment."

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Stalled efforts at recovery

It's now been more than three weeks since the Ingenika sank, but neither the Canadian Coast Guard nor the RCMP have been able to retrieve the vessel. Carlick-Peason says they have given up the search even though there could still be answers on the boat, and the boat still contained fuel, which could be harmful to the marine environment.

"We feel that the tug will not only answer questions, but give us some closure as well," she wrote in a petition launched March 2. "If they recover the tug, they may find out why that tugboat sank, as tugboats aren't known to sink."

The petition has received more than 6,600 signatures as of Saturday.

In a written statement to CBC, Transport Canada extended their condolences to the families of Pearson and Cragg, but said the suspected depth of the vessel would make any attempts at recovery difficult and dangerous.

"The coast guard continues to monitor the situation and work with the owner, the RCMP, Transport Canada, and Environment and Climate Change Canada as partners in the response," the statement says. "An investigation into the sinking of the tug Ingenika will be conducted by the Transportation Safety Board."

Call for greater oversight

The Feb. 11 incident has sparked calls for better protection of mariners operating vessels.

The International Longshore Workers Union Local 400 Marine Section sent out a news release on Feb. 23 asking Transport Canada to require formal safety management systems for undersized and undermanned fleets operating along the coast.

ILWU Local 400 president Jason Woods said approximately 12 tugboats have sunk in the past two years on the West Coast. Woods said these tugboats are often undermanned and underweight for the size of vessel they are pulling.

"The only reason people haven't died is because of luck," Woods said. "We've been saying this for years, that there will be a fatality, it's going to happen, and here we are."

Woods said he would like to see every commercial vessel inspected by Transport Canada regardless of its weight, and procedures in place to ensure they are appropriately manned.