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5 Britons killed after whale boat sinks off Vancouver Island

Vancouver: Five British nationals died when a whale watching boat with 27 people on board sank off Vancouver Island, the British Foreign Minister said today.

One person was missing and the rest were rescued, some by members of the local aboriginal community who rushed to help.

The cause of the sinking remained a mystery. The boat made a mayday call late Sunday afternoon on a calm, clear and sunny day off Tofino, a popular destination for whale watchers, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre said.

Government investigators were not expected to arrive until Monday afternoon in Tofino, a remote community of about 2,000 people at the very tip of a peninsula some 200 miles (320 kilometers) northwest of Victoria, the capital of British Columbia. Jamie Bray, the owner of the company that operates the boat, said he is cooperating with investigators to determine what happened.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed in a statement that the five killed were U.K. Nationals. He said consular officials in British Columbia were supporting family members of those who died.

“My thoughts are with the family and friends of all those affected by this terrible accident,” Hammond said.

Barbara McLintock, a coroner’s spokeswoman, said four men and one woman died and their ages ranged from 18 to 76. She said two of them were residents of Canada. Their names were not released.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police sent an underwater recovery team to search for the missing person, with assistance from the Coast Guard and local search and rescue personnel.