The Criminal Negligence trial of the Officer who was on the bridge when the Queen of the North hit Gil Island and sank is now underway. It is a jury trial and is expected to last six months according to CBC.
I'll certainly be interested in seeing where this goes. I'm amazed it has taken this long to go to trial.
Former B.C. Ferries deck officer Karl-Heinz Lilgert showed a “complete failure” to do his job navigating the Queen of the North on the night the ship sank nearly seven years ago, claiming two lives, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Lilgert, the former fourth officer on the vessel, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of criminal negligence causing the deaths of passengers Gerald Foisy and Shirley Rosette.
The ship sank off Gil Island in March 2006, part way through its voyage from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy.
In his opening statement, Crown Counsel Bob Wright told a B.C. Supreme Court jury that after entering Wright Sound, Lilgert was supposed to turn the vessel left, but did not make the turn.
He said the vessel went straight ahead, on the wrong course, for about 22 minutes before striking the island and sinking.
“The collision unfortunately was catastrophic,” Wright said.
Prior to the collision, Lilgert made no course changes, no evasive manoeuvres and took no emergency action on the bridge, said Wright, one of six prosecutors on the case.
There was no communication from the bridge to the engine room, to the master or captain of the ship, or to any other crew member, he said.
“It’s the theory of the Crown that this accused’s negligence caused the sinking and he thereby caused the deaths of Gerald Foisy and Shirley Rosette, two of the passengers on board the Queen of the North that night,” said Wright during a brief opening in a trial expected to run at least three months.
“We anticipate that the evidence will establish the complete failure on the part of Mr. Lilgert to perform his duty to the passengers and his fellow crew members, which was to navigate the ship according to the principles of sound maritime practices.”
Wright said Lilgert, who sat quietly in the courtroom near his lawyers, had “ample time” to alter his course and had the benefit of all sorts of navigational devices and aids, including radar and GPS.
The prosecutor told the jury that the Crown would be calling a number of other crew members who were aboard the vessel, including quartermaster Karen Bricker, who was alone with Lilgert at the time of the mishap.
He said Bricker was expected to say that she and Lilgert had been having an intimate affair, were in love and had talked about having children together, but that the affair had ended several weeks earlier.
Bricker had decided to stay with her husband and purchase a home with him, and on the night of the sinking she talked briefly with Lilgert about the home purchase but did not discuss it further, said Wright.
According to Bricker, everything was normal on the bridge and Lilgert appeared to be doing what he was supposed to be doing, but Lilgert suddenly ordered a significant course change, said Wright.
Bricker saw trees on the island and the vessel struck the island, and she asked and received permission to run to the captain’s cabin and alert him to the collision, Wright said.
In his opening, defence lawyer Glen Orris told the 14-member jury that determining who was responsible for the collision wasn’t the issue.
“We say the proper question is: What was responsible for this accident?”
Orris said his client was a qualified mariner and went about his job in a professional manner, not intending to cause injury or damage.
He blamed the collision on “troubles deep within” the ferry system that Lilgert was operating under.
Orris said some of the navigational equipment on the bridge was ineffective and argued that Lilgert should have had more help.
He said his client’s relationship with Bricker may have been a “big deal” to the news media, but insisted it had nothing to do with the collision.
“That was over, that was done,” Orris said.
The trial heard brief testimony from the first witness, an RCMP officer, and then adjourned until Monday.