Tofino charter boat owner still has nightmares about deadly sinking

Still haunted by sinking

The owner of a sports fishing charter feels extreme remorse and still has nightmares about the day his vessel was swamped off Tofino four years ago, killing two passengers. That information was revealed during Richard Grimm’s recent sentencing hearing in Port Alberni provincial court.

The April 30, 2017 tragedy was investigated by the RCMP but no criminal charges were laid. However, Grimm, owner and operator of the Catatonic, was charged under the Canada Shipping Act and pleaded guilty to failing to demonstrate how to wear a lifejacket before the vessel left the dock.

At the October hearing, Grimm was so overcome with emotion he was barely able to speak. “I take responsibility. Every day, I think about them,” he said through tears. “I’m sure that if anything ever happens out there again that I have a lot more experience, and I will pass that on to the other guys on the dock.”

Judge Lisa Mrozinski accepted a joint proposal from Crown and defence to place Grimm on probation for two years with conditions that he complete more marine training and 25 hours of community service. Grimm is also required to notify the coast guard when he takes passengers on his boat and let them know where he will be fishing.

Mrozinski stressed that she wasn’t sentencing Grimm for the loss of the two lives, but for his failure to comply with a statutory obligation. “There is no sense at all this was an intentional act. It was a failure to do what you were required to do.

“No one knows better than you — other than the families of the deceased — the consequences of that failure.”

An agreed statement of facts revealed that on the morning of April 30, 2017, four paying passengers boarded the twin-hulled catamaran. The ocean was choppy and southwest winds were gusting to 21 to 34 knots.

Three hours after leaving the dock, waves started to hit the Catatonic. Ten minutes later, it was swamped, its stern submerged.

A large wave hit the vessel and Grimm and his passengers jumped into the frigid water. Search-and-rescue personnel found them an hour and 40 minutes later, but by that time, two Alberta men, Mike Cutler and Alvin Beckley, had died.

The court heard that there was no life raft aboard the Catatonic, and although Grimm showed his passengers where the lifejackets were kept, he didn’t show them how to put them on.

The Transportation Safety Board found that with seas washing over the deck, the bilge pumps, the GPS and the VHF radio on the Catatonic stopped working. Grimm called in a mayday using his cellphone, but because the GPS wasn’t working, he could not give the correct location of the vessel.

Planes and boats started searching the area without success. Eventually, the coast guard called a friend of Grimm’s, who was able to tell them where Grimm usually took clients. By the time search-and-rescue crews arrived, Beckley and Cutler were unconscious.

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