Family wants answers in party boat fall

Share Adjust Comment Print


Friends and family are demanding answers while police continue to search for a London, Ont. man who fell off a cruise ship into Lake Ontario.

Keith White, a 34-year-old welding technician and certified lifeguard, was on the Northern Spirit cruise ship with about 425 others at a private party when he fell off Saturday around 7:30 p.m., about two kilometres south of the Humber River.

“The anguish we feel right now is sharpened by a sense of mystery about how something like this could happen,” the White family said in a statement. “We are confused about how Keith could fall off a ship in daylight, surface alert and continue to swim, and yet it appears nothing was done to assist him in a timely manner … We look forward to answers, and, if required, a commitment for change in the industry to ensure no other family has to endure this.”

Mariposa Cruises said after learning a passenger went overboard, emergency measures were immediately initiated. The boat’s engines were immediately stopped and the ship began to turn around to where White fell.

 “A member of the ship’s crew deployed a life ring in the direction that the crew and passengers were pointing,” the cruise company said in a statement Monday evening. “To safely deploy the rescue craft, the ship maneuvering had to be completed or the rescue boat risked capsizing in the momentum of the ship’s turn.”

Before the rescue boat was deployed, the police marine unit arrived and took over, the statement said.

“I extend my personal sympathies and thoughts to the family,” Mariposa president Jim Nicholson said. “All of us at Mariposa are deeply saddened following this tragic incident.”

White’s family described Keith as a person who “lived life with a ferocity and love that was unparalleled” and who “was the person everyone loved being around, and the person that could make anyone laugh.

“He had a quick wit, a big heart and physical and mental strength that we all admired.”

White’s boss at Brose Canada Inc., an automotive supplier plant in London, confirmed he had been employed as a welding technologist since 2007 and employees had heard of the tragic news through the media.

“It’s really saddening news,” Brose general manager Steve Wilkins said. “We’re just waiting to see if the body is recovered at this point.”

He described White as personable, fit and well-liked by his co-workers. He was also an avid car-racing fan.

“He was an extremely highly-skilled individual,” said Wilkins. “He was dedicated. He’d take his car to the track and guys from work would also join with their vehicles as well. Very keen on fitness. It’s very sombre in the office area where he worked and he had a very strong connection to the shop floor.”

Toronto Police Sgt. Gerry Klunder, of the marine unit, said three boats continued to search the area on Monday.

Search crews worked until midnight Saturday and resumed their effort on Sunday.

Police confirmed alcohol was being served on the 400-tonne triple-decker boat.