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Associated links (M21C0265)

TSB releases investigation report into 2021 capsizing of a rescue boat and subsequent loss of life in Montréal, Quebec

Gatineau, Quebec, 31 January 2024 — Today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released its investigation report (M21C0265) into the fatal capsizing of the Service de sécurité incendie de Montréal (SIM) rescue boat 1864 off Île au Diable in Montréal, Quebec.

On 17 October 2021, the SIM rescue boat 1864, with 4 firefighters on board, was dispatched to rescue a pleasure craft that had sustained an engine failure and was drifting toward the Lachine Rapids. As it attempted to tow the pleasure craft through the rapids, the rescue boat suddenly capsized, resulting in the 4 firefighters going into the water. Three of them were rescued and treated for hypothermia, and a search was conducted to find the fourth firefighter. The search continued into the next day when the firefighter’s body was located and recovered.

The investigation determined that, during the rescue operations, the firefighters were primarily focused on visually locating the pleasure craft rather than determining their own position. Given the crew’s lack of experience in the area and concentration on searching for the pleasure craft, the reduced visibility, and the speed of the vessel, they did not realize they had entered the Lachine Rapids’ exclusion zone designated by the SIM following a similar occurrence in 2010. This zone prohibits firefighters from conducting navigation, training, and rescue operations without requesting Canadian Coast Guard assistance. With the urgency of the situation and no objective criteria to abandon and transfer the operation to another SIM rescue boat downstream of the rapids, the crew of rescue boat 1864 continued the operation under difficult conditions for which they were not trained.

The investigation also revealed that when rescue boat 1864 finally reached the pleasure craft’s bow, faced with the urgency of the situation and limited options, the firefighters undertook a risky rescue operation involving a reverse tow. Any type of towing involves risks, but towing in reverse is a complex and abnormal operation for a boat with jet propulsion. While towing in reverse in whitewater, the rescue boat lost reverse propulsion and steering. In reaction to the situation, the vessel's propulsion was shifted forward, causing it to collide with the pleasure craft, resulting in the rescue boat suddenly taking on water and capsizing.

Following this occurrence, the SIM withdrew from service all boats matching the model involved in the occurrence and replaced them with outboard-powered boats. Also, the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail prohibited the SIM from operating in the exclusion zone of the Lachine Rapids until measures were put in place to ensure safe navigation. The Commission also recommended that the Ministère de la Sécurité publique take steps towards improving the health and safety of the various first responders, including firefighters and the police force, during water rescue operations.

See the investigation page for more information.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates air, marine, pipeline, and rail transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Media Relations
Telephone: 819-360-4376