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Ferry rescue faced shifting survivor tally

VANCOUVER - The rescue operation to save passengers and crew on a sinking ferry off the coast of B.C. was faced with uncertain tallies of how many people were on board the ship and how many made it off.

The confusion, which persisted for hours, has been detailed at the trial for navigation officer Karl Lilgert, who is charged with criminal negligence causing the deaths of two passengers.

Travis McNeice, a marine communications operator who was handling some of the radio calls on March 22, 2006, told the jury that for part of the day he believed there were 102 passengers and crew on the ship, when in fact there were 101.

Most of the passengers and crew were transported to the nearby First Nations community of Hartley Bay, and McNeice received three different head counts ranging between 63 and 65.

The rest were taken to the coast guard ship Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and he received numbers from the ship ranging from 36 to 38.

The trial has heard it took hours to confirm whether everyone was accounted for or how many people were missing, but McNeice says when he left his shift that day it was clear two people were missing.

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