Concordia’s captain to be interviewed
HALIFAX (CP) — The agency investigating the sinking of a Canadian tall ship will zero in on any safety deficiencies on board and whether the Brazilian navy was right to wait roughly 20 hours before sending out an aircraft to search for the vessel.
Chris Sawyer of the Barbados Maritime Central Ship Registry, which is leading the probe, said officials plan to take statements from the Concordia’s captain, first mate and second mate on Friday.
Sawyer said investigators want to know the condition of the threemasted barquentine before it sank, what the crew were doing, the weather and how people reacted when they realized the 57-metre ship was in trouble.
“What we’re looking for as the flag state is the safety issues to see how they were addressed in a real situation,” Sawyer said Wednesday from London.
“And then maybe (we’ll) look at modifying them or improving them or introducing new safety requirements if they’re found to be needed.”
The Nova Scotia-based ship, a “floating school” carrying 64 students and staff, went down in rough seas about 500 kilometres off the Brazilian coast last Wednesday. Everyone survived and no one suffered serious injuries.
The students were taking part in the Class Afloat program, run by the West Island College International of Lunenburg, N.S.
The ship’s captain, William Curry, has said although the Concordia’s crew had prepared the day before for what they anticipated would be rough weather, the ship suddenly keeled.
When it keeled again the ship’s sails were exposed to the powerful wind and within 15 seconds the boat was lying on its side and began to sink. The captain said it slipped beneath the waves 30 minutes later.
Curry called it a miracle that everyone on board made it into rafts and survived after the Concordia apparently experienced a weather phenomenon known as a “microburst” — a sudden, violent downdraft of wind — that instantly crippled the vessel.
Sawyer said he hadn’t heard of the phenomenon before, but that investigators would get expert opinion on it.
Nigel McCarthy, Class Afloat’s CEO, said it was 16 hours after the ship sank before the company even became aware there was a problem, and at that point only knew an emergency beacon had been set off.
He questioned why it took the Brazilian navy possibly up to 26 1/2 hours before it sent a search plane to look for the ship after the emergency beacon went off.
“Our only concern is, ‘Did these children need to be in the water as long as they were?”’ he said from Lunenburg. “ We’re thankful that these people picked up the kids and we’re just asking the question, ‘Could the plane have been launched an hour or 24 hours earlier?”’
Capt. William Curry, back, embraces an unidentified student from Canada’s West Island College after arriving at the Mocangue naval base in Rio de Janeiro, Saturday. Curry was the captain of the Concordia which sank last week.