Mother travels overseas to bring daughter home after whale-watching tragedy 

Katie Taylor remembered in Whistler Monday night at the Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - tofino tragedy Katie Taylor was one of six people who died when a whale-watching boat capsized near Tofino on October 25.
  • photo submitted
  • tofino tragedy Katie Taylor was one of six people who died when a whale-watching boat capsized near Tofino on October 25.

Katie Taylor, a girl from the Midlands of England, always wanted to go whale watching in Canada.

So, with a few weeks off work from the Whistler Day Spa, where she was the manager for more than a year, Taylor thought nothing of heading off to Tofino by herself to check out B.C.'s rugged and wild west coast.

She arrived on Friday, Oct. 23, and stayed for two nights before getting aboard the Leviathan II with 26 others for her chance to see the whales. She never returned.

Taylor, 29, was one of six people who died when the whale watching boat she was on capsized on Sunday, Oct. 25. The investigation into what went wrong on that doomed boat is ongoing.

Within days her mother Audrey Holt arrived in Canada to begin the long journey of bringing her daughter home.

"She loved Canada, loved Whistler. She wanted to make it her home," said Holt from her room at the Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre this week. "I can see why. It's a beautiful place."

It has been a whirlwind, grief-stricken five days for Holt. With her sister-in-law by her side she travelled to Tofino, the place where her daughter died, and then to Whistler, the place where Taylor had so many plans for her life ahead.

"She just loved the people here and the vibe of the place," said Holt, adding that Taylor wanted to immigrate here, maybe meet someone, get married, have children, and settle down. "I think that was all part of her long-term plan."

It comes as no surprise to Holt that her daughter was off on an adventure on her own in Tofino.

"She was always an independent girl," said Holt, of her happy and caring middle child.

She remembers her first day of primary school in Lichfield where she grew up.

"It was 'bye-bye mummy' and she was gone, straight in," she said.

Taylor studied criminology and applied psychology at Brighton University and went on to work for the probation service in Brighton.

She also took her love of adventure to Australia for seven months and to Germany for two years, where she learned the language and found a job.

She discovered snowboarding in England, at an artificial snow-dome in the neighbouring town of Tamworth. And that spark of interest could have been what led her to Whistler.

Her friend and roommate Jessica Deinum said they had big plans ahead this coming season.

"We were both planning on taking more days off this year, we were planning on going up a lot this winter," said Deinum."We joked that we would go and get better together."

Holt said two little words — "thank you" — are just not adequate for the outpouring of help and support they've had since arriving in Canada. The words don't convey her overwhelming gratitude to people of the Pan Pacific who donated the suite, the Dubh Linn Gate, which donated the evening of remembrance for Taylor on Nov. 2, Tofino Victim Services, the RCMP, the British Consulate, the funeral director in Nanaimo who would not hear of them taking the bus to Tofino and instead drove them the three hours to the coast, stopping to buy them dinner on the way. This, said Holt, was one of the reasons her daughter loved Canada.

She's read the messages on the GoFundMe campaign, which quickly surpassed its goal to help the family with travel expenses. There were stories about Taylor's smile and her friendliness when she talked to people on the bus or at the coffee shops.

"All those little things make up Katie as a whole," said her mom of the stories. "It's just really nice. There have been very lovely things said about her.

"She was just a lovely girl."

Five British nationals, including Taylor, died on the Leviathan II. One Australian man is still missing.

Though she would not talk about what happened in Tofino that day and afterwards, Holt said she met some of the other families while she was there.

"I do really feel for them," she said quietly, her sister-in-law drawing closer to her on the couch, wrapping an arm around her. "It's an awful thing to be going through. They're all in my thoughts."


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