49 rescued from whale-watch boat aground west of Whidbey

The 60-foot vessel from Victoria reportedly hit a rock near uninhabited Smith Island in the Strait.

Associated Press and Victoria News

Everyone was safe after 43 passengers were evacuated from a 60-foot Canadian whale-watching vessel that went aground on Smith Island, west of Whidbey Island in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Six crew members were also on board.

The U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies helped with the rescue effort after the vessel took on water Thursday afternoon. Coast Guard Lt. Pierre Spence said no injuries were reported.

People on the catamaran 4 Ever Wild, which is operated by Eagle Wing Tours in Victoria, British Columbia, were moved to other vessels, the Coast Guard said, except for four crew members who were staying with the grounded boat to help with salvage.

Initially, bigger rescue boats were unable to get close enough to fetch passengers from the 4 Ever Wild, the Coast Guard said in a series of tweets. But a smaller Coast Guard boat and another Canadian tour boat were able to get everyone aboard. Passengers were to be ferried back to Victoria.

The Victoria News reported that the vessel came in contact with a rock near the island in U.S. waters at approximately 12:35 p.m. The captain brought the vessel to shore on Smith Island, according to Eagle Wing Tours.

The uninhabited island is part of the San Juan Islands National Wildlife Refuge and is about four miles off Whidbey, not far from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

Spence said the Coast Guard was assisted by Washington State Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

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