POLITICS

Supreme Court of Canada says it won't hear appeal in deadly B.C. ferry sinking

05/14/2015 10:10 EDT | Updated 05/14/2016 05:59 EDT
OTTAWA - The Supreme Court of Canada has abruptly ended the legal campaign of a man who was at the helm of a British Columbia ferry that slammed into an island and sank.

The high court announced Thursday that it would not hear the appeal of Karl Lilgert's convictions on two counts of criminal negligence causing death.

Lilgert was convicted by a jury in 2013 and sentenced to four years for the deaths of Gerald Foisy and Shirley Rosette, who disappeared when the ship went down in March 2006.

He had been free while appealing the case and turned himself in last December when the B.C. Appeal Court unanimously rejected his case.

As usual, the Supreme Court of Canada gave no reasons for not hearing the appeal.

Lilgert's lawyer, Glen Orris, said he was disappointed that the high court wouldn't hear the case.

"I was hoping to argue the matter in the Supreme Court of Canada, but they've decided otherwise," he said on the phone from Kamloops, B.C.

At Lilgert's B.C. Supreme Court trial, the jury believed the Crown's explanation that he missed a scheduled turn and rammed the ferry into a remote island because he was distracted by his ex-lover, who was on the bridge with him for the first time since they'd ended their relationship.

The Queen of the North was on a routine overnight trip down the Inside Passage with 101 passengers aboard when it hit Gil Island and sank.

Lilgert told the trial that he delayed turning and then made course changes in response to the circumstances at the time, including weather and the presence of another boat. He said he was shocked to encounter the island.

Both Lilgert and his former lover, quartermaster Karen Briker, denied their affair had anything to do with the sinking.

Alfred Jack, Rosette's brother-in-law, said he's pleased to see that Lilgert will finally be serving his sentence nine years after the sinking, though he never thought the sentence was adequate.

"But it's still the same, for two lives, that's four years, two years per life," he said on the phone from his home in Riske Creek, about 300 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.

He said Rosette's two boys, who were 12 and 16 when their mother died, were devastated by the loss, especially because their father had passed away the year before.

"They've both been struggling quite a bit. We've helped them out as much as we could."

The families of Rosette and Foisy settled their lawsuits against BC Ferries in 2009.

A lawyer for Foisy's daughters said they accepted $200,000 because legal costs were making it impossible to go to trial. The settlement by Rosette's family wasn't disclosed.

Orris said Lilgert has publicly apologized to the family members on several occasions and has always taken responsibility for what happened.

"We fought this on a legal issue, of course, and what we considered to be a relevant state of mind," he said. "He's responsible, he's acknowledged that. It's really a question of putting that behind him."

Lilgert has been in prison for almost six months, and Orris wasn't sure how much more time his client would have to serve on his four-year sentence.

"I know him very well. I'm sure that he's a model prisoner and doing whatever he's required to do in the system."