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British Columbia Mariner convicted in Queen of North ferry death to appeal verdict

Karl Lilgert, navigator of the Queen of the North, leaves the law courts in Vancouver on May 13, 2013 after being found guilty of criminal negligence causing the deaths of two passengers in the 2006 BC Ferries sinking.

Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Lawyers for Karl Lilgert, the veteran mariner convicted Monday of criminal negligence causing death in the sinking of the Queen of the North passenger ferry, says his client will appeal the verdict.

"We believe there were some significant legal errors in the judge's charge to the jury," lawyer Glen Orris said Tuesday.

He said the alleged mistakes by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein dealt with her summation of the offence. "It was not helpful."

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Appeal papers will be filed within the next 30 days, Mr. Orris said.

As to the state of his client, following Monday's verdict, the defense lawyer said he was "doing fine, but obviously disappointed in the result."

The jury took six full days to reach its unanimous decision, after a trial that lasted nearly four months.

The Queen of the North sank in the early morning hours of March 22, 2006, not long after it slammed into Gil Island. Evidence presented during the trial indicated that Mr. Lilgert, the officer in charge of navigating the ship at the time, failed to make a routine course correction that would have taken the ferry safely past the island.

Two passengers are missing and presumed drowned.

The Crown contended that the BC Ferries officer was distracted by "personal business" with the only other person on the bridge with him, his ex-lover, quartermaster Karen Briker.

During his testimony, Mr. Lilgert argued that he had been navigating to the best of his ability, while concentrating on other marine traffic in the area and a sudden squall. However, he could not explain why the ship hit Gil Island.

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The fact the jury took six days to render its verdict shows that members "clearly worked hard" to make their decisions, Mr. Orris said. "They were troubled, obviously, by some of the evidence. Based on what they were told the law was, they worked hard."

A sentencing hearing for Mr. Lilgert on two counts of criminal negligence causing death is set for June 21.

If he receives jail time, Mr. Orris will ask the court of appeal to release his client on bail, while he pursues his appeal.

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