Cruise passenger’s unsafe behaviour and intoxication led to person-overboard fatality in Toronto, Ontario, in 2015

Northern Spirit I

Richmond Hill, Ontario, 29 September 2016 — The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) determined that a passenger’s unsafe behaviour and intoxication led to him falling overboard from the vessel Northern Spirit I in Toronto, Ontario, and subsequently drowning. The investigation also found that the crew’s emergency response efforts were not coordinated. The findings are in the investigation report (M15C0094) released today.


On 13 June 2015, the Northern Spirit I was on an evening cruise when security guards near the bow of the vessel observed that one of the passengers was behaving erratically and appeared to be intoxicated. When the passenger was seen leaning over the upper deck railing on the starboard side, two security guards rushed over to him and attempted to prevent him from falling, but he went overboard. A guard advised the master of the situation, search and rescue authorities were alerted, and the vessel was maneuvered to return on a reverse track in an attempt to locate the passenger. Numerous first-responder organizations joined the search effort as the evening progressed, but the search was unsuccessful. The passenger’s body was recovered 18 days later.

The investigation found that the passenger was intoxicated, and that he had been drinking before boarding and while on board the vessel. Security guards and crew members had not detected this during pre-boarding screening or on board the vessel, and the passenger had not been denied alcoholic beverage service. The passenger’s high blood alcohol concentration affected motor skills and increased the risk of hypothermia, which decreases the chance of survival in the water.

 Northern Spirit I
Northern Spirit I

Because the signal to initiate the man-overboard procedure was not sounded, the crew’s response to the emergency was not coordinated and did not align with the company emergency procedures. In addition, there were delays in launching the vessel’s emergency boat owing to its position on the vessel’s stern. The investigation also found that if emergency procedures in the safety management system or muster list lack key details and do not fully account for all contingencies, there is a risk that opportunities to recover a person who has fallen overboard may be missed.

Although the crew had performed some emergency drills, they had not performed any man-overboard drills, which may have prevented the crew from being able to easily recall the steps to take during a person-overboard situation. There is a risk of increased death or injuries during emergencies if crew members do not practise drills for emergency procedures.

See the investigation page for more information.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

Transportation Safety Board of Canada