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'Elf' sinks while being towed to Vancouver

Tugboat involved in fuel spill now rests on ocean floor off West Vancouver

The tugboat involved in a fuel spill in Squamish now rests on the bottom of the ocean off Point Atkinson.

On Tuesday (Jan. 14), the Elf went down in the Mamquam Blind Channel, leaking approximately 1,500 litres of diesel into the waterway, Coast Guard spokesperson Dan Bate said. The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre attended the scene, as did Emergency Management B.C., Squamish Marine Search and Rescue, RCMP, Natural Resource Officers and the municipal bylaw and environmental officers.

The Coast Guard brought in a large barge and crane. On Thursday (Jan. 16) at around 8 p.m., the Coast Guard raised the sunken 74-foot wooden boat from the channel, Bate said.

Inspections were made and it was moved out, he said, noting at approximately 11 p.m. the tug was towed toward Vancouver. Unfortunately, it would appear the vessel sank while in transit.

Primary inspections on the vessel didn't reveal any obvious damage, Bate said. There were no holes or signs of water seeping into the tug, he said. The Elf went down near West Vancouver's Lighthouse Park. A fly-over will be conducted to look for signs of fuel on the sea's surface, Bate said, adding the vessel is too deep down to salvage.

The tug needed to go to a repair facility, services that aren't available in Squamish, Bate said, adding the Coast Guard wouldn't have undertaken the tow if it wasn't necessary.

The Coast Guard would pay for it [the tug's salvage] and then there would be financial compensation down the road, Bate said, noting they will look to the boat's owner.

Squamish Streamkeeper John Buchanan found dead juvenile pink salmon along the shoreline of the Mamquam Blind Channel after the initial sinking. The initial spill couldn't have happened at a worse time, he said, noting the herring run will be in Squamish's waters over the next four weeks. Unfortunately the oil slick's effects will be lasting, Buchanan noted.

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