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Canada Whale Tour Boat Victims

Dollar Photo Club / Nikolai Sorokin

Canada Whale Tour Boat Victims

Five people died after a whale watching boat with 27 people aboard sank off Vancouver Island Sunday and one person remained missing, Canadian authorities said, according to The Associated Press.

The boat made a mayday call late Sunday afternoon on what was a calm, clear and sunny day off the tourist community of Tofino, a popular destination for whale watchers on Canada's West Coast, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre said.

Lt.-Cmdr Desmond James, a spokesman for the rescue agency staffed by Canadian military and Coast Guard personnel, said late Sunday that the agency's search concluded with five people dead, 21 rescued and one person missing. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police will take over the search for the person who remains missing, according to the AP.

The boat, the 20-meter Leviathan II, was partially submerged 8 nautical miles (12 nautical kilometers) west of Tofino.

Tofino's mayor described the town's mood as tense but commended residents for their quick aid in the rescue effort.

"Everybody's heart is just breaking for what's going on here and wanting to be as helpful as possible," Josie Osborne said in a telephone interview late Sunday with the AP.

Coast Guard vessels and search and rescue aircraft had searched into the night for survivors.

John Forde, who runs The Whale Centre, another whale watching operation, responded to the call for help and was told the search was for four or five missing people.

The ship that went down was operated by Jamie's Whaling Station, Forde said. He said he had no idea how it could've sunk.

Forde said Jamie's Whaling Station was one of the first of its kind off Vancouver Island and had been around for many years.

On Sunday, five ambulances were dispatched and several off-duty paramedics went to the dock to help, said Jenn Hamilton, a spokeswoman for British Columbia Emergency Health Services.

Canada's Transportation Safety Board said it was investigating the boat's sinking.

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