Mar 12, 2013 / 4:39 pm
Seven years after the Queen of the North passenger ferry sank off the coast of British Columbia, memories of that night moved Lawrence Papineau to tears and anger.
The 46-year-old Ontario man, who was on the ferry with his wife on its final voyage, choked up as stepped into the witness stand Tuesday at the criminal negligence trial for one of the ship's crew, even before he had the chance to spell his name and swear an oath to begin his testimony.
Minutes later, he stared directly at the accused, fourth officer Karl Lilgert, and left little doubt about who he blamed for the sinking, which left two passengers missing and presumed drowned.
"Everybody (among the crew) was good, except for the guy driving the boat," said Papineau, his voice raised and his eyes locked in Lilgert's direction.
Lilgert was the navigating officer on the Queen of the North's bridge in the early morning of March 22, 2006, when the ship missed a turn and collided with an island.
Papineau wouldn't have known that night that Lilgert was on the bridge, but he knows his name now. Lilgert was charged three years ago with criminal negligence causing the deaths of two passengers, Gerald Foisy and Shirley Rosette, who haven't been seen since the sinking.
Papineau was on the ferry with his wife, Nancy Laughing-Papineau. The couple had travelled to BC to show off Laughing-Papineau's native crafts at a youth conference in Kamloops and decided to ride the ferry down the province's Inside Passage before returning home.
Papineau offered an emotional account of his experience the night of the sinking, including the moment the ship ran aground. He was asleep at the time.
"All of the sudden: boom, bang, shudder," said Papineau.
"I could hear steel ripping. I know what it sounds like when you rip steel apart, so I knew it was bad right off the bat."
Papineau and his wife rushed out of their cabin and onto an outside deck, where passengers were being loaded into life rafts.
Soon, they were on an inflatable life raft in the water, with only a single crew member assigned to watch over a raft full of more than 20 passengers, he said.
Papineau described a chaotic scene in his raft, with the crew member, a woman he believed worked in the ship's kitchen, panicking and offering little help to the passengers.
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