BC Ferries officer sailed past sinking spot 800 times, court hears

VANCOUVER – Karl Lilgert had sailed past Sainty Point almost 800 times between 1990 and 2006, the corporate records manager for BC Ferries told court Monday.

But in the early morning of March 22, 2006, while Lilgert was serving as officer in charge of navigation, the Queen of the North missed a turn near the point and collided into Gil Island, forcing about 100 passengers to be brought to land in rafts and rescue boats.

In the years after the ferry sank and two missing passengers, Gerald Foisy and Shirley Rosette, were presumed dead, Tara Les Strange was asked to prepare a diagram showing how many times Lilgert worked on a vessel that passed the point from 1990 until the sinking.

Les Strange used payroll records and log books to reveal that Lilgert worked 2,176 days during those years, 795 of which he was on a boat that passed Sainty Point — either the Queen of Prince Rupert or the Queen of the North.

Lilgert was not always working as an officer on days he passed the point. He sometimes worked as a deckhand or a seaman, according to the records manager.

“I reviewed logbook entries (as well as payroll entries) for the entire work period,” said Les Strange, adding she reviewed more than 2,000 dates.

“There were, I believe 88 dates that I did not have a logbook available. For Queen of the North, from September 2004 to the date of the sinking there was not a logbook available. They were not sent to archives the week they went down with the vessel.”

Chilling radio calls from the night of the sinking played earlier in the trial recorded second officer Kevin Hilton calling: “Traffic, traffic: We have run aground south of Sainty Point, several miles south of Sainty Point” after the ship struck land.

Les Strange told Crown lawyer Samiran Lakshman she also produced diagrams showing when Hilton, Lilgert and quartermaster Karen Briker worked common shifts between March 22, 2005 and the day of the collision.

Payroll records show Lilgert worked 169 days that year and Briker, his former lover, worked 143.

The two worked 109 days on the same vessel and in the same department during that year, whereas Briker and Hilton worked together just 19 times.

The trial has heard that Briker and Lilgert were alone together on the bridge at the time of the crash, the first time they had been left alone since Briker ended their affair several weeks earlier.

Briker testified last month that Lilgert had been asking her about a home she recently had purchased with her common-law spouse.

The Crown alleges fourth navigational officer Lilgert caused the deaths of the two passengers who haven’t been seen since the Queen of the North sank in 2006 and are now presumed drowned.

The Crown argues Lilgert was criminally negligent when he failed to steer away from the island and missed a scheduled correction, but the defence has said the weather was bad, the equipment was unreliable and that training and staffing were inadequate at the time of the crash.

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