Fired B.C. ferry captain loses Supreme Court appeal

Captain claimed he was fired for raising 58 safety concerns in investigation of sinking but court found he was trying to avoid responsibility
|employmentlawtoday.com|Last Updated: 04/06/2011

The British Columbia Supreme Court has upheld the firing of the captain of a ferry that sunk in 2006, claiming two lives.

The B.C. ferry the Queen of the North sunk in March 2006 after striking an island. Two of the 101 passengers on board went missing and are presumed dead. The ferry’s captain, Colin Henthorne, was asleep at the time of the crash, having turned command to his navigating officer, Karl-Heinz Lilgert, and quartermaster Karen Bricker. In 2007, the two crewmembers were fired for not co-operating with the investigation and Henthorne was also fired. Lilger was charged in March 2010 with criminal negligence causing death in relation to the sinking and a Transportation Safety Board report found there should have been a third person on the bridge and Lilgert and Bricker — who had a romantic history — were too involved in a personal conversation at the time of the accident.

Henthorne claimed wrongful dismissal in January 2008, arguing to WorkSafe BC that he was fired for raising 58 safety issues with BC Ferries during the investigation. He won the case and Worksafe BC ordered B.C. Ferries to reinstate him and pay him lost wages in February 2009.

However, WorkSafe BC’s appeal tribunal found Henthorne was fired because of the damage to the employment relationship that arose out of the sinking of the Queen of the North and subsequent events during the investigation that resulted in BC Ferries losing confidence in Henthorne. The tribunal upheld the firing and ordered Henthorne to repay the lost wages awarded in the earlier decision, totalling $127,233.05.

Henthorne appealed to the province’s Supreme Court but the court upheld the appeal tribunal’s decision, finding the safety issues he raised were unrelated to the sinking and an attempt to divert responsibility.

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