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UPDATE: Police charge Courtney man after Sunday night ocean rescue

Nelson Daily Staff
By Nelson Daily Staff
July 31st, 2012

Charges have now been laid against the skipper of the vessel involved in a dramatic police response off the coast of Vancouver Island Sunday night.

Charges of assault with a weapon (knife), uttering threats, pointing a firearm and careless use of a firearm have been laid against 49-year-old Karl Darwin Thomas of Courtenay, B.C.

Thomas is scheduled to make an appearance on these charges in Port Hardy Provincial Court Tuesday.

This investigation remains ongoing. 

RCMP rescues two people following daring high seas chase near Port Hardy

A 26-year-old woman and a 21-year-old man are safe following a a high seas rescue off North Vancouver Island Sunday night.

Shortly after 8:30 p.m., RCMP reported receiving a request for assistance from a female crew member aboard a fishing vessel traveling in the waters off Vancouver Island, near Port Hardy.

The woman reported that the skipper of the 30-foot gill-netter fishing vessel was high on drugs and threatening to kill her and the other male crew member.

The pair had sought safety on the roof of the vessel, described as a 30-foot gill-net fishing boat. She reported they had been physically assaulted and threatened by the skipper.

There was a loaded shot gun on board, and multiple knives.

As RCMP officers were being mobilized to respond, additional information came in from the caller, indicating that shots had been fired, and the situation was escalating quickly.

Port Hardy RCMP officers took to the water in an attempt to locate the vessel. This was a challenging task given the diminishing light, and no exact location being available.

The RCMP Island District Emergency Response Team (ERT) was activated to assist, based on the report of a weapon, and the threat to life.

Using cellular telephone ‘pings’ off towers in the North Island area, members of the RCMP’s Operational Communications Centre in Courtenay were able to identify a general location for the vessel.

This was made more difficult, given the remoteness of the area, and the constant movement of the vessel.  The general area was Browning Passage, near Pine Island, northeast of Port Hardy.

This information was relayed to the Port Hardy RCMP officers on the water, helping them to locate the vessel shortly after 11 p.m. These officers shadowed the vessel, using the marine radio to repeatedly order the skipper to head for shore. Their attempts were not successful.

Officers observed the two crew members on the back of the boat, and moved in to rescue them. The two jumped from their vessel onto the bow of the officers’ boat, and were quickly taken to safety.

After the crew were safe, contact was made with the skipper of the vessel via cell phone, and he was persuaded to dock at Port Hardy.

The vessel was escorted in by an RCMP vessel based out of Port McNeill. 

The RCMP Emergency Response Team was waiting at the dock, and took the skipper into custody without further incident. The 49 year-old Courtenay man remains in police custody.

This incident highlights the challenges and risks of policing in Vancouver Island’s marine environment, said Cpl. Darren Lagan with the Island District RCMP.

Despite these risks, our officers put their training and experience to use, rescuing the two crew members, and safely arresting the suspect.

The number of shots fired, and intent of the suspect remains under investigation by the Port Hardy RCMP.

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