Judy Carlick-Pearson and her husband Troy Pearson were looking to make a change.
“We wanted him to be home as much as possible. We have a young son, his name is Carver, and we wanted him to spend as much time with his dad in the early years,” she said in a phone interview.
“But it’s kind of the way it goes, you know one thing, and you keep going back to it.”
Troy Pearson spent his whole life on the water. It started at age of eight, and at 14 he was working on a seine boat.
Even after going to school to do auto body painting, Pearson found he was back to the sea working for BC Ferries and most recently the Wainwright Marine Service based out of Prince Rupert.
In the early morning on Feb. 11, tragedy struck.
The Ingenika, 10 metre tug boat owned by Wainwright Marine, was pulling a barge from Kitimat to the Kemano along a series of narrow passages.
An emergency beacon was signalled, an RCMP marine vessel out of Hartley Bay responded and the Canadian Coast Guard.
One survivor was found near the shoreline, Zac Dolan, but two other’s lost their lives in the sinking – Charley Cragg and Troy Pearson.
The tugboat is still sitting at the bottom of the ocean.
Authorities won’t say if the barge will be raised.
“BC Coroners Service Work Safe BC and Transportation Safety Board have been advised and are engaged. BC Coroners Service will be conducting a parallel investigation into the deaths,” said RCMP spokesperson Madonna Sanderson in a statement.
Not other details were shared. It’s not clear whether Dolan gave a statement to authorities.
The Transportation Safety Board said it conducted a Class 5 investigation which only includes the collection of information but no in-depth report was produced.
Carlick-Pearson and friends created an online campaign to bring awareness that the vessel remains at the bottom of the ocean.
She believes there are multiple reasons to salvage the tugboat, including an environmental one due to the fuel on the boat but also a very personal reason – to find out what happened.
“The last portion of that is we want that tug salvaged because who knows what answers are at the bottom of the ocean with it,” she said in a phone interview.
The Canadian Coast Guard said they believe most of the fuel already was released.
“The Ingenika had approximately 3,000 to 3,500 litres of diesel fuel on board. Maximum fuel capacity on the tug was 6,000L,” said Kiri Westnedge, Canadian Coast Guard communications advisor.
“To date, no marine pollution has been observed, and we believe that at least some of, if not most, of the fuel dissipated in the first 72 hours during the storm.”
The Coast Guard added that an attempt to recover the boat could put more lives at risk.
“A remotely operated vehicle (ROV) controlled by the RCMP followed the path left by the towline to a depth of 172 metres without locating the vessel, Westnedge said.
“The suspected depth of the vessel would make any attempts at recovery difficult and very dangerous.”
In Kitamaat Village, Haisla Hereditary Chiefs Sammy Robinson and Jake Duncan are calling for the tugboat to be pulled up from the canal.
Duncan says the federal government should raise the vessel to limit sea damage.
“That is what we’re depending on, somebody to get to the table and see what we can do collectively as Haisla people,” he said calling for leadership on this issue.
Robinson says the area is important for his people’s fisheries, they still depend on it today.
“We still rely on it, we still use the eulachon grease, we still eat the eulachons. We dry it, and we use it for winter works and we used it for trading to other villages. It’s a deep concern to us,” he said.
The Kemano River is where the eulachon migrate to spawn.
“It’s a delicate fish the eulachon, they won’t go there if there is any fuel or any foreign thing in the water. They will turn right back, we’ve known that for hundreds of years and we kept it as clean as possible in my childhood and up until today,” he said.
Duncan said this had happened before to the Kitimat River here the eulachons no longer run here so they go to Kemano.
“Instead of taking a 15-minute ride to our main eulachon camp up here, we have to take an 8-hour ride now, which costs thousands of dollars, if that dwindles, where are we going to turn to,” he stated.
In Prince Rupert Carlick-Pearson and friends’ quest continues.
The online petition which aims to have the Canadian Coast Guard to recover the vessel has nearly 10,000 signatures.
Carlick-Pearson is grateful for the support her family has received.
“I would really like to put it out there to all the people that signed the petition and all the people that reached out and really gone to extensive lines to helping us and supporting us a family. I would really like to say thank you so much,” she said.
She believes finding answers that could remain on the tugboat could give her family and the family of Charley Cragg closure.
“I knew that my husband knew a lot of people but I didn’t realize how many he actually knew and how many people he impacted, she said.
“I honestly think that him and the other boy, Charley are helping us out with this because we need answers on this, we need closure for both families.”
Editor’s Note: Rio Tinto contracted out the tub boat for its services but doesn’t own the boat or Wainwright Marine Services as the story previously suggested. The story has been corrected to reflect accurate information.