Safety concerns raised regarding Toronto water taxis – Global News

A water taxi trip back to the mainland from the Toronto Islands turned terrifying when the pontoon boat hit a wave and dipped deep into the waters of Lake Ontario.

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“The driver was going too fast,” said Kyle Brownrigg, one of about a dozen occupants on the vessel on June 12.

A video, recorded by another passenger aboard the taxi, shows water sloshing onto the boat. Some aboard were terrified by the experience.

“He hit the wave at an angle too fast; we took on so much water that the front of the water taxi was completely submerged,” Brownrigg told Global News in a television interview.

The co-owner of The Otter Guy Water Taxi, Alex Nosal, said it appeared his driver was going too fast at the time.

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“I tell them to go 10 knots an hour or slower,” said Nosal. “That was a rookie driver. He started the week before.”

Nosal said he was finally able to identify the driver after Global News provided the date and time when the incident occurred.

“Thanks to your network,” Nosal said he was in a position to find out which of approximately company 35 drivers was operating the boat at the time.

The driver was severely reprimanded for speeding at the time, Nosal said.

In an earlier telephone interview, Nosal said the driver would lose his job.

“None of the drivers ‘fessed up to it so we are still investigating it internally,” said Nosal.

Later, Nosal said the driver was on vacation and had not been terminated.

Competitors complain that some of The Otter Guy Water Taxi vessels are not up to accepted standards, even though they are approved to provide passenger service.

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“Almost all the (other) operators have newer-style boats, safer boats,” said Luc Cote, president of Tiki Taxi.

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“There’s only one business to blame for this particular incident,” said Cote.

Alex McPhee, owner of T-Dot Water Taxi, says his relationship with the Otter Guy is “cordial (but) it has not gone unnoticed that several of their vessels seem unsafe for commercial passenger transportation.”

“With video evidence mounting, we believe it is time for a closer look at these vessels by the appropriate regulatory bodies to determine if they should be allowed to operate in the Toronto Harbour,” McPhee told Global News.

In response to a Global News request for comment, Transport Canada said it’s now looking into the incident.

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“Transport Canada is aware of a reported incident involving a water taxi service at the Toronto Harbour. The department is reviewing the matter and verifying the authenticity of the video,” wrote Sau Sau Liu, a senior communications advisor.

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Nosal said his company is in the process of replacing some of its current vessels with new electric models. He said that because of COVID-19, the replacement program has not proceeded as quickly as the company wanted.

In the meantime, however, he says his company is “vigilant, always looking to make sure boats are in great operation.”

Nosal acknowledges that the June 12 incident, in which no one was injured, shouldn’t have happened.

“The boat should never dip into the water. The driver was going too fast.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.