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Queen of the North closing arguments

The sinking of the Queen of the North passenger ferry off British Columbia's northern coast is a story made up of many chapters.

There is the tragedy of two missing passengers, Gerald Foisy and Shirley Rosette, who vanished the night the ferry sank seven years ago, and the mystery of what happened to them. Each left behind children, families, and their own struggles that were detailed and catalogued at the trial of one of the ship's crew.

There are dramatic tales of survival. The cleaner who was trapped in her room as it filled with water, escaping with only seconds to spare. The passengers who bobbed in life rafts in the darkness, cold and wet, as they watched the ferry slip below the water. The nearby fishermen who rushed to the scene to help.

And there are the personal transgressions of Karl Lilgert, charged with criminal negligence causing death, and his former lover, Karen Briker, whose illicit affair was laid bare at the trial. The pair was on the bridge when the ship struck a remote island, ripping apart the ferry's hull, letting endless speculation, rumours and innuendo spill out.

Those chapters will be stitched together starting Tuesday, when the Crown and defence present their closing arguments to the jury as Lilgert's trial nears its conclusion.

The Queen of the North was on an overnight voyage heading south from Prince Rupert, in the early hours of March 22, 2006, when the ship missed a scheduled turn and sailed into Gil Island. A frantic rescue saved the lives of 99 passengers and crew, but Foisy and Rosette were presumed drowned.

The only two people who know exactly what happened on the bridge that night, Briker and Lilgert, each testified at the trial, but neither was able to explain why an otherwise routine sailing turned catastrophic.

They each testified Lilgert was busy navigating the ship when, seemingly out of nowhere, they could see treetops from Gil Island through the window. They also insisted their affair, which ended several weeks earlier after both of their spouses caught wind of it, had nothing to do with what happened.

Lilgert said he was doing everything he could to navigate the ship, watching the radar and ordering course corrections to ensure the ferry kept a safe distance from the island and from two other boats he believed were in the area.

But he could not, or would not, explain why the ferry was so far off course when it slammed into the island.The closing arguments are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. The next step will be for Judge Sunni Stromberg-Stein to deliver her instructions to the jury, after which the jury will begin its deliberations.

Lilgert pleaded not guilty to two counts of criminal negligence causing death.

The Canadian Press


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