B.C. Ferries passenger launches life raft, jumps overboard

A ferry passenger began a bizarre adventure with a gleeful leap into the ocean and ended it with a naked break-in spree on Galiano Island.

It all began about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday as Coastal Celebration made its way from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay through Active Pass, near Galiano Island, said B.C. Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall.

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Passengers and crew members reported a man in his 20s had launched a life-raft, a large inflatable one designed to carry as many as 100 people, she said.

Passenger Jake Holm was a witness. “This guy yelled ‘yahoo’ and did a front flip off the boat,” Holm told CHEK News.

“He just kind of tucked into a barrel roll right off the railing and landed feet first in the water.”

Despite the launch of the life- raft, the man did not appear to get into it; instead, he swam to Galiano Island.

Coastal Celebration crew members launched rescue boats and were joined by crews and boats from Spirit of British Columbia, which was nearby, on its way to Tsawwassen.

“So we started a search-and-rescue operation,” Marshall said. “We also notified RCMP and coast guard that the incident was occurring.”

Outer Gulf Islands RCMP said the alert from B.C. Ferries was followed shortly afterward by a distress call from a Galiano Island resident.

The woman said a naked, wet and incoherent man had entered her home and was throwing around furniture and other items.

The woman escaped uninjured to a neighbour’s house and called police.

The naked man then apparently walked to a nearby resort and entered a cabin from which bedding was taken. Police arrived and made an arrest. The man was taken to Royal Jubilee Hospital for assessment.

The incident was the talk of Galiano on Thursday.

Matthew Morgan, manager of the Galiano Corner Store, said the identity of the man is a mystery to islanders.

“Nobody around seems to think he’s from here,” Morgan said.

Dianne Laurent, an assistant with the Galiano Island Chamber of Commerce, said before long the story had made its way around the island and on to Facebook. “News travels fast,” Laurent said.

RCMP are preparing information for charges of breaking-and-entering, being unlawfully in a dwelling and mischief under $5,000.

B.C. Ferries is considering court action, including possible charges and a lawsuit over the cost of delays, rescue efforts, crew overtime and costs related to the life-raft.

The life-raft sent into the water was tied up at Galiano overnight and retrieved Thursday.

“You’ve got to dry it out, you have to reinspect it and then repack it,” Marshall said. “It’s quite an undertaking.”

Launching such a life-raft is quite easy by necessity.

“We have to have our life-saving appliances easily deployable for our crews,” Marshall said.

“In the unlikely event that you need them, you need to act quickly.”

The incident was similar to one in 2005 in which a man jumped off Spirit of British Columbia, also in Active Pass, to get to a baseball game on Mayne Island. He prepared by putting his gear into garbage bags, which he inflated for use as life-preservers.

He made it to shore, but ended up in hospital for treatment of a buttocks injury suffered when he hit the water. He did not make it to his game.

The man received six months’ probation and was ordered to repay $1,392 in rescue costs to B.C. Ferries, which also barred him from ferry travel indefinitely.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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