Search and rescue crews kept searching late into the night for the sunken Leviathan II's 27 passengers. The tragedy claimed at least five lives with one passenger still unaccounted for.

Five confirmed dead in tragic whale watching disaster near Tofino

A 65' whale watching vessel sank near Tofino on Sunday.

A devastating tragedy struck the West Coast on Sunday as a whale watching vessel sank near Tofino claiming the lives of at least five of the 27 passengers on board.

The 65-foot Leviathan II capsized around 5 p.m.

The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre dispatched a Royal Canadian Air Force Cormorant Helicopter and RCAF Buffalo aircraft to the search area as well as four Canadian Coast Guard Vessels, according to a media release issued by the Department of National Defence/Joint Task Force Pacific.

A wide array of locals assisted with the search and within 30 minutes the vessel was located partially submerged about eight nautical miles from Tofino.

“Of the 27 individuals on board, 21 were rescued, 5 were located with vital signs absent and one remains missing,” the release states.

The search and rescue efforts concluded around 10:45 p.m. and the remaining missing person file was handed over to the RCMP.

The Leviathan II was owned and operated by local wildlife watching company Jamie’s Whaling Station and was the largest vessel in the company’s fleet.

andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca