The family of a well-known hockey coach, forester and fishing guide from Williams Lake presumed drowned after his fishing charter boat began to take on water and capsized near Bella Bella Friday, Aug. 23 said they are still searching for answers.
“We are in shock. We cannot believe this happened,” Nyree Alexander said of the fact her husband Jeff Alexander, a father of three adult children, and also a grandfather, is missing.
“Jeff was doing what he loved,” she told the Tribune 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 (JRCC) stationed in Bella Bella said Jeff sent out a mayday around 10:45 a.m.
“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 must have happened fairly quickly.”
There was a family of five guests on the 26-foot Bayliner Trophy at the time who managed to swim to shore.
The family told the Tribune the waters were raging and waves were coming over from every direction and the boat filled up so quickly with water.
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 about an hour and half later.
Reynolds said Jeff was not wearing a life jacket.
Jeff was hanging onto a floating chair, and the boat went down about 100 metres from shore.
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 the investigation was being turned over to the Transport Safety Board. The underwater recovery team was scheduled to be in Bella Bella on Aug. 29, weather permitting, for the search.