Veteran fisherman tried to save his deckhands

The daughter of the veteran Cobble Hill fisherman who died when the Arctic Fox II capsized in the waters off Washington state said her father put the deckhands’ lives ahead of his own as heavy waves crashed onto the boat in the pitch black night.

Tom Lindberg, the 76-year-old skipper of the vessel, and another fisherman died Aug. 11 after the boat capsized about 136 kilometres offshore of Cape Flattery, which is just south of Port Renfrew. The third fisherman was found alive in a life boat by U.S. Coast Guard officers responding to the vessel’s distress call. The name of the sole survivor and the other man who died have not been released.

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“I know my dad just did everything he could for that young man,” said Paula Lindberg, breaking down into tears. “He would 100 per cent put that young man’s life in front of his own. It sounded like a chaotic, devastating, fast night.”

Paula Lindberg was told there was only 20 minutes between when the mayday call was put out around 2 a.m. and when the boat went down which is “incredibly fast.”

Paula Lindberg said she hasn’t spoken directly with the family of the sole survivor but she’s heard some of the details of what happened from the company that owns the vessel, Teague Fishing Corporation. The company’s owner, Larry Teague, has known Tom Lindberg for about 50 years, as the two were in the Canadian Armed Forces together. Teague is Paula Lindberg’s godfather and Tom Lindberg is godfather to both of Teague’s children, she said.

“They trusted each other implicitly. Larry would never put my dad in harm’s way and he would not put his business in harm’s way,” said Paula Lindberg, addressing the allegations by Raymond Dixon and his twin brother Anthony, who say they were recruited as deckhands but left the ship in Victoria because they had safety concerns.

The Arctic Fox II, a wooden troller built in Scotland in 1947, underwent a full inspection a few weeks before it set sail, Paula Lindberg said. The boat left from Cowichan Bay on Aug. 2. “You can’t insure an unsafe boat,” she said.

Dixon recalled that Teague told him and his brother that they had to keep an eye out for boats because the skipper was blind but Paula Lindberg said while her father wore reading glasses, his eyesight was fine. She thinks they mis-heard and that Teague was warning them about watching the boat’s blind spots while the skipper was at the helm.

She disputed Dixon’s characterization of rotting beams in the galley, saying the entire wheelhouse was re-built in 2016. Dixon said the boat stopped in Victoria because a hydraulic pump had burst but Paula Lindberg said it was a freezer pump that wouldn’t affect the structural integrity of the boat.

Paula Lindberg said the twin brothers had never been on a commercial fishing expedition before so they wouldn’t know what to expect on the boat. For example, Dixon thought waxing the zippers of the survival suits meant they were old but Paula Lindberg said that’s a routine task before going out to sea.

“He was trying to teach them,” she said. “He could be a tough captain because he wanted to be safe, he wanted to keep everyone alive.”

The B.C. Coroners Service, the Transportation Safety Board and WorkSafe B.C. are all investigating the capsizing.

In October 2006, Lindberg and another crew member survived after their boat, the Silver Bear, capsized 220 kilometres west of Cape Disappointment, Washington. The two were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard after spending two hours floating in a life raft in five-metre swells.

In that incident, the deckhand credited the skipper with saving his life.

“I know the deckhand at the time, praised my father for saving his life and just being so prepared,” she said. Tom Lindberg praised the U.S. Coast Guard for their amazing response.

“He was a tough cookie. He didn’t have a lot of fear around the ocean,” she said.

His daughter and his wife of 45 years, Angela, wondered when the life-long mariner would retire from the dangerous and unpredictable job. Paula Lindberg said her dad retired for one year but he was miserable. He’d go down to the Cowichan Bay wharf and watch his friends head out to sea.

“He was still mobile and active and sharp,” she said.

Tom Lindberg was born in Sweden and moved to Canada with his family at age seven. He spent seven years in the Canadian Armed Forces working as an engineer which included a deployment in Germany in the late 1960s. He worked as a commercial deep sea diver and in the 1970s, started his career as a commercial fisherman. In 1993, the family moved from the Lower Mainland to Cobble Hill and Tom Lindberg started fishing out of Cowichan Bay.

As a child, Paula Lindberg said her dad taught her to fish. He would take her out sometimes for 10 days at a time and give her small tasks such as throwing back the dogfish. She said her father instilled in her a love of the arts and would take her to the ballet and the theatre. Paula Lindberg now works in Los Angeles as an actor but she returned to Cobble Hill in May when her sister was sick with breast cancer. Her sister and Tom Lindberg’s stepdaughter, died last week so the family is struggling with a double loss.

Paula Lindberg said being a mariner isn’t always something you can learn, but comes with having an innate sense of the ocean which her father always had. “He would talk about the struggle of man versus nature and he’s really passionate about it,” she said. “He was one of those men who just got it.”

Tom Lindberg was previously the president of the B.C. Tuna Fishermen’s Association and a longtime board member with the Cowichan Bay Fishermen’s Wharf.

“He was a passionate seaman,” his daughter said. “He loved being on the ocean, he loved his community of fishermen. He dedicated his life to it.”

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