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Queen of the North survivors win settlements Add to ...

Three passengers who survived the 2006 sinking of BC Ferries' Queen of the North have been given small court settlements for psychological distress.

Justice Brian Joyce of the B.C. Supreme Court awarded amounts ranging from $500 to $14,000 for lingering psychological problems related to the accident.

Two other passengers who also reported emotional and psychological issues received nothing.

The group was part of a larger class-action lawsuit against BC Ferries and three officers in control of the vessel the night of March 22, 2006, when she struck Gil Island and sank off the northern B.C. coast.

All but two of the 101 passengers and crew escaped the sinking ship.

The bodies of Gerald Foisy and his companion, Shirley Rosette, were never found.

Lawyers for Mr. Foisy's two teenaged daughters filed a wrongful death lawsuit but earlier this year reached a $200,000 settlement with the independently run Crown-owed ferry operator.

In his 62-page judgment, Judge Joyce noted BC Ferries and the plaintiffs in the class action have reached agreement on several elements of their suit, including dropping demands for punitive damages or claims or recklessness on the part of BC Ferries.

That decision sets monetary limits on BC Ferries liability for personal injury and property losses under an international convention covering marine carriers.

They've also dropped their action against three of the vessel's officers, two of whom were on the bridge, when the ship slammed into Gil Island at more than 17 knots just after midnight while travelling from Prince Rupert on B.C.'s north coast to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island.

A Transportation Safety Board report concluded the crew of the doomed ferry had not followed basic safe sailing practices the night the ship sank.

There were only two crew members on the bridge and they failed to make a crucial course correction, allowing the ship to hit the island.

Navigation equipment that would have warned of a collision had been turned off weeks before.

The report said Quartermaster Karen Bricker and Fourth Officer Karl Lilgert had recently ended a relationship and it was their first shift alone on watch since the break up.

The safety board said the two were engaged in a personal conversation while the ship was on its collision course.

They were fired, along with captain Colin Henthorne, who was resting at the time of the accident. He has since been reinstated after a provincial labour board ruling.

In his ruling, Judge Joyce said the issue driving the awards was whether the passengers could link ongoing mental problems to the sinking and whether they suffered from a medically recognized psychiatric illness.

The five plaintiffs ranged from a 10-year-old boy who complained of nightmares for months after the sinking to adults who had nightmares, flashbacks, problems in their marriages and drug and alcohol problems worsened by the sinking.

Fisherman Barney Dudoward of Bella Bella, B.C., received about $14,000, while fish-farm labourer Frank Bolton was awarded $7,500 and 67-year-old grandfather Leslie Wilson got $500.

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