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Tug company, senior official charged in fatal 2021 sinking off northwest B.C. coast

The Ingenika sank near Kitimat, killing Troy Pearson and Charley Cragg
Charley Cragg and Troy Pearson lost their lives in the sinking of the tug boat Ingenika on Feb. 11, 2021. Wainwright Marine Service Ltd. and James Geoffery Bates have been jointly charged with eight counts in the Prince Rupert Court on Jan. 6, 2023. (Photo: supplied)

Charges have been laid against a tug and barge company and one of its senior officials two years after a tug sank off British Columbia’s coast south of Kitimat, killing the captain and one crew member.

Court documents show a total of eight counts have been laid against Wainwright Marine Services and James Bates, the president of Bates Properties Ltd., which includes Wainwright Marine as one of its operations.

The charges relate to alleged violations of occupational health and safety regulations under the Workers Compensation Act, and court records show a first appearance is scheduled next month in a Prince Rupert courtroom.

Fifty-eight-year-old tug captain Troy Pearson and 25-year-old crew member Charley Cragg died, while a third crew member survived, when the tug Ingenika went down in a storm in February 2021 while towing a barge.

Pearson’s wife, Judy Carlick Pearson, told The Northern View the past two years don’t seem like a long time.

“There will never be justice for Troy or Charlie. There will never be … that will never happen just because of the magnitude of the loss that we have received,” she said.

“We’re now into February again and the weather is hit and miss. There’s Arctic storms coming in all over and two years to us — it seems like it happened yesterday.”

“We were originally hoping to charges of negligence causing deaths, and unfortunately, that is not the case,” the widow continued.

“We need to continue to fight for a clear legacy for those guys because they were honourable men, honourable mariners and diligent about what they did. We need to stand up and make some noise about this because we don’t want this to happen to future mariners.”

Transport Canada’s website shows Wainwright and Bates Properties were fined a total of $62,000 last year for violations that included not ensuring enough properly trained crew members were aboard the Ingenika.

The Transportation Safety Board initially completed a brief probe of the sinking but after a 10,000-name petition was submitted by Pearson’s widow, the case was expanded to a Class 3 investigation, meaning it “may have significant consequences that attract a high level of public interest.”

The board’s website shows the investigation is now in the report phase, but a release date has not yet been scheduled.

Family members of the victims also want the Ingenika to be raised from the bottom of the Gardner Canal on B.C.’s central coast, in part because the tug sank with 3,500 litres of diesel fuel aboard, but also because they believe the wreckage could indicate possible malfunctions, deficiencies or instability.

Transport Canada has said it would support the recovery, if directed by the safety board, but warned the tug lies at a depth that could complicate the effort.

Taylor Bachrach, Skeena Bulkley MP and transportation critic, has been lobbying for tighter restrictions since the incident occurred. Bachrach said the charges are an important step in achieving justice for the families, but more needs to be done.

“The government and justice system must use every tool available to hold negligent companies accountable and protect workers’ lives.”

“Holding one company accountable isn’t enough to protect mariners who up and down the B.C. coast,” he said. “For years, workers have been calling for stronger federal regulations, for mandatory inspections and for proper enforcement. Two years passed. Two workers dead. And [the Transportation Minister] hasn’t changed a single safety measure. Why?”

The Northern View reached out to Wainwright Marine for comment, however, a call was not returned.

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