49 rescued as whale-watching boat takes on water off coast

U.S. Coast Guard officials say there were no injuries and no pollution reported after a Canadian whale watching boat began taking on water Thursday afternoon.

Emergency personnel from several agencies responded to the call at 12:30 p.m. of the vessel 4Ever Wild of the Victoria-based company Eagle Wing Tours needing assistance from the waters off the west side of Whidbey. A spokeswoman for the company told the Vancouver Sun the large boat became damaged after hitting a submerged rock.

After the boat was damaged, the 60-foot catamaran’s captain intentionally grounded the vessel on Smith Island, Coast Guard spokeswoman Amanda Norcross said. There were 43 passengers and six crew members aboard.

North Whidbey Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief Chris Swiger said the district dispatched two boats and Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue responded with its boat as well.

Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Search and Rescue sent a helicopter.

Multiple private boats helped alongside Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Swinomish Tribal Police and first responders from Jefferson County.

The Coast Guard’s boats were unable to get to the area where the damaged vessel was beached, Norcross said.

Border Protection and Fish and Wildlife boats moved passengers onto the boats on scene until the company sent more vessels from Victoria to pick them up, Norcross said. Several crew members stayed behind to help salvage efforts.

The catamaran was reported stabilized and repaired at 1:06 a.m. Friday morning.

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