The family of a well-known hockey coach, forester and fishing guide from Williams Lake presumed drowned in a boating incident Friday says they are still searching for answers to exactly what happened out on the water.
“We are in shock. We cannot believe this happened,” Nyree Alexander said of the fact her husband Jeff Alexander is missing. Jeff was on his fishing charter boat near Bella Bella when it began to take on water and capsized.
“Jeff was doing what he loved,” Nyree told the Williams Lake Tribune on Tuesday.
“He was a fantastic captain and made sure everyone else on the boat was safe. He was a true hero to the very end. Our family is struggling to understand why, but the outpouring of love and support from our family, friends, church and co-workers and this fabulous community is overwhelming.”
She said the family is grateful for all the kind words, thoughts and prayers.
Paul Reynolds, search mission co-ordinator with the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre Victoria stationed in Bella Bella said Jeff sent out a mayday.
“He was just coming out of Bella Bella and they were on their way to Bella Coola to drop off some guests and pick up the next group,” Reynolds said.
“He was going down Fisher Channel and making the corner into Burke Channel. It was a little choppy, not overly rough, but I guess some bad set of circumstances caused that boat to fill up with water and roll over. It must have happened fairly quickly.”
There was a family of five guests on the 26-foot Bayliner Trophy at the time who managed to self-rescue and swam to shore.
The Kennicott, Alaska State Ferry, showed up 10 minutes after the mayday call and received the family who had been picked up by search and rescue.
Reynolds said Jeff was not wearing a life jacket.
“It was quite close to shore and he was hanging onto a seat cushion and decided to swim,” he added.
Joint rescue crews remained on site searching until 10 p.m. Friday night, with aid from the Canadian Coast Guard ship the Captain Goddard and a fixed-wing plane.
Reynolds said the JRCC has responded to 1,848 marine and air cases this year so far and averages more than 3,000 a year.
Cpl. Madonna Saunderson, North District RCMP media relations, said Tuesday that the investigation is being turned over to the Transport Safety Board.
The underwater recovery team is scheduled to be in Bella Bella on Thursday, weather permitting, for the search.