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Updated: Fri, 08 Feb 2013 15:53:18 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

B.C. ferry sinking was like watching Titanic



B.C. ferry sinking was like watching Titanic

A Queen of the North ferry crew member told a B.C. Supreme Court jury in Vancouver that watching the ship go down seven years ago was like watching the movie Titanic.

Senior chief engineer Brian Erickson said that on the night of the sinking he had been asleep in his quarters less than an hour when he awoke to an impact and quartermaster Karen Bricker pounding on cabin doors shouting: "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry!"

The ship had run aground on Gil Island in Wright Sound just after midnight on March 22, 2006.

The ship would be above the water line for just over an hour more, but Erickson didn't know that at the time. He only knew that the ferry had been struck, or had struck something.

"The boat hit hard and heaved back. There was a rocking sensation, and loud scrapes and bangs," Erickson said.

He dressed and made his way to the bridge, where he found the third officer calling "mayday" on the radio.

Erickson looked out and saw the shoreline and trees, but the ferry was listing so heavily he thought it would roll over, and take everyone on board with it.

A decision was made to abandon ship. About 100 people, both passengers and crew, began loading into life-rafts.

Erickson went to check the car deck for passengers, but couldn't get down because of the water level.

"The water was up the stairwells. It was way past doing anything. The ferry was sinking at a rapid rate."

He went back up, and got into the last lifeboat lowered into the water. He said he watched the ferry's final moments.

"[I saw the ferry] getting lower and the lights going out deck by deck as it sank," he said.

"It was like a watching the Titanic.

"The bow rose and fell. You could hear the cars crashing. Then the windows on the buffet deck exploded and the glass scattered like confetti.

"And then it was gone."

The ship's fourth officer, Karl Lilgert, is charged with criminal negligence causing the deaths of two passengers.

Gerald Foisy and Shirley Rosette haven't been seen since the ferry sank almost seven years ago.

Lilgert has pleaded not guilty.

The Crown has divided its case into chapters, and Erickson's testimony was the first part of chapter three, which will hear from 35 crew and passengers who were aboard the Queen of the North that night.

The third chapter of the trial is expected to take until the middle of next month to complete.

With files from the CBC's Belle Puri

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