The search for three capsized mariners near Tofino entered its second day on Saturday and First Street Dock was packed with Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation members supporting each other as they await updates. (Photo - Andrew Bailey)

VIDEO: Volunteers continue search for capsized mariners near Tofino

“The mood on the dock is hopeful.”

The search for three West Coast residents whose boat capsized early Friday morning continued on Saturday as local boaters, RCMP and search and rescue crews maintained their collaborative efforts.

Five men were tossed into the water when their tin boat sank near Duffin Cove around 3 a.m. Two were located, one pulled from the water and another who swam to shore. Members of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation have been supporting each other at Tofino’s First Street Dock, waiting for updates on the three missing men.

“We’re all focused really hard on resolving the situation in the best way that we can,” Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Executive Assistant Connor Paone told the Westerly News at the dock on Saturday.

“We have a lot of committed professional people on the water, on land and in the skies right now…The mood on the dock is hopeful. It’s sorrowful because of the situation that’s going on, of course. Right now, we’re just trying to keep our spirits up. We have a lot of people here trying to cheer people up and we have a lot of support from all the communities on the Coast here helping us do that.”

He added West Coast communities have proven their ability to come together in a crisis.

“We’ve been here before. Every handful of years there’s a tragedy on the Coast and, every time that happens, you see all the communities come together,” he said. “Culturally speaking, the [Tla-o-qui-aht] Nation’s really close. All the families are really close with each other and anyone that’s involved or has been around can see that just with the amount of people that are here, the amount of donations that have come in from local businesses, from family members, from the community at large to help support the families and the people that are on and off the water searching.”

While Victoria’s Joint Rescue Coordination Centre scaled back its search efforts Friday night and handed the file over to the RCMP as a missing person’s case, Westcoast Inland Search and Rescue Manager Garth Cameron told the Westerly that the search team was bolstered Saturday morning with SAR crews arriving from Nanaimo, Comox and Courtenay.

“Both the Tla-o-qui-aht and Ahousaht First Nation have a ton of boats on the water and lots of boots on the ground,” he added.

Cameron said the search’s momentum has not waned in the second day.

“Everybody deals with tragedy differently. From a SAR manager point of view…we just push, push, push,” he said. “You’re always hopeful and it’s always a search. We’re looking for somebody. When we find that person, then we’ll cross that bridge; whatever that bridge may be and I, for one, will never speculate that it’s something else besides a search. Right now, we are still looking for three missing people.”

Paone said the best way for locals to assist is through donations of food and water to the search teams and that any boaters wanting to join the effort should check in at the dock first.

“If you want to get involved in the search, don’t just head out on your own,” he said. “Make sure you’re checking with Search and Rescue. If you’re unsure, the best thing to do is come down to the First Street Dock here and check in in person with them to make sure that we get you tasked out officially. The worst thing that could happen is to have another set of people head out there and get stuck themselves.”

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