Dozens of ‘optimistic’ volunteers resume search for 3 missing boaters near Tofino

Dozens of volunteers have resumed the search for three missing people off the coast of Vancouver Island.

The boaters disappeared when a small boat capsized near Tofino, B.C., on Friday morning.

A search was launched after several 911 callers reported hearing screams for help from the water near Duffin Cove around 3 a.m. PT.

Two men were rescued — one from the water and one who had made it to shore — and taken to hospital.

The search for the other three was called off at nightfall on Friday. The operation has since been handed over to RCMP as a missing person’s case.

‘Every island … every shoreline’

At dawn on Saturday, volunteers from neighbouring communities were back on land and water.

Connor Paone, executive assistant with the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, said people from the Clayoquot, Ucluelet and Ahousaht First Nations have all come to help with more than a dozen boats.

A Canadian Coast Guard vessel was searching the waters near Tofino’s Chesterman Beach for three missing people whose vessel capsized early Friday. (@MerlinYYC/Twitter)

He said West Coast Vancouver Island Search and Rescue is managing efforts on the ground, with the Canadian Coast Guard in charge of marine efforts.

RCMP are using sonar equipment to comb the ocean floor for evidence.

Officials and volunteers are working together out of an emergency operations centre established on the First Street dock.

“We have our ground crews hopping on every island and every shoreline,” said Paone. “We’re going to cover basically all of it.”

‘We’re really optimistic’

Strong winds on Friday as well as typical currents in the region meant a “wide range of places to search,” but Saturday’s weather is looking far clearer.

Paone said hopes are high.

“We’re really optimistic. We’re hoping for the best result possible,” he said.

“Everyone’s in really good spirits. We have a lot of community support — for the people on the water, on the land and of course for the families.”

Worried family members and emergency officials waited for news at Tofino’s Fourth Street Dock on Friday morning. Since then, an emergency operations centre has been set up at the First Street Dock. (Skye Ryan/CHEK)

Paone said those families are “basically on standby.”

“I think, like anyone in this situation, you can’t really put words to how the families are doing but there’s quite a bit of community support here and I know the families are well looked after and there’s a lot of love.”

Paone said other First Nations, the District of Tofino and businesses in town have been sending food donations for searchers and the families.​

Two coast guard boats and a helicopter were joined by a Royal Canadian Air Force helicopter on Friday. The military personnel have since been called off the search. (CHEK)

‘Really good guys’

RCMP have confirmed the vessel was a small “tin” boat, but officials have released no details about who was in the open boat or where they are from.

Ahousaht Chief Greg Louie said he was told the missing boaters are fishermen from another First Nations community in the area.

Simon Allison, who’s lived in Tofino for over 13 years, made the first 911 call after he woke up to the sound of screaming in the middle of the night.

He said he knows two of the people who are still missing.

“Really good guys,” he said. “I can’t stress just how much impact this is going to have on the community.”

In a statement, Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne said the district is “hoping and praying for the best.”

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