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Nurse comforted survivors of whale-watching tragedy

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A nurse originally from Northern Ireland has described going to the aid of a group of people after their boat sank eight miles from shore during a whale-watching trip in Canada.

Sheila Simpson told the BBC how she helped to comfort survivors from the tragedy at a nearby dock.

“The survivors who could walk up off the deck were shell-shocked”

Sheila Simpson

Five Britons have been confirmed as dead, while an Australian is still missing, after the Leviathan II sank on Sunday. There were 27 people on board in total, according to reports by the BBC.

The boat is thought to have capsized off the coast of British Columbia after being hit by a wave – potentially because many of the tourists were grouped together on one side of the boat.

Ms Simpson, who originates from County Tyrone, said those who made it to shore appeared to be in shock.

Speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme, Ms Simpson said: “Thank god for my training in Omagh and in the Royal [Victoria Hospital] in Belfast.

“I just stepped into the place where I could be of assistance,” she said. “The survivors who could walk up off the deck were shell-shocked and I looked them in the eye and I put my hand to their back and I said ‘you are alive, you have survived’.”

Ms Simpson added that she tried to reassure the passengers and that her nursing experience in Northern Ireland meant she understood how “trauma stays” with the survivors of such incidents.

Canadian officials have said more could have died had it not been for the “amazing response” from local fishing boats and other vessels that helped to rescue survivors.

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