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Friday, March 24, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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2 feared dead in ferry sinking

HARTLEY BAY, B.C. — Two passengers remained unaccounted-for Thursday, a day after the ferry Queen of the North sank near this remote Inside Passage town, the head of B.C. Ferries said.

B.C. Ferries President David Hahn said Thursday that hope began fading when reports that passengers Gerald Foisy, 44, and Shirley Rosette, 43, were seen among rescued passengers turned out to be false.

"They're likely on the ship," he said. "I would prefer that we're sitting here 12 hours from now and they turn up somewhere. I'd be thrilled. I think everybody would."

But "I don't have data that steers me to another point. I don't like it. It's a bad scenario."

Authorities have not ruled out other possibilities, including that the two may be traveling home to 100 Mile House, B.C., from Hartley Bay. But relatives said they had not heard from them.

After striking a rock shortly after midnight Wednesday, the 409-foot Queen of the North sank about an hour after its 101 passengers and crew began taking to the lifeboats. Initial reports were that all passengers and crew had made it to Hartley Bay or were picked up by the coast guard icebreaker Sir Wilfred Laurier.

The ferry was on its regularly scheduled overnight trip to Port Hardy, at the northern tip of Vancouver Island, when it sank off Gil Island in Wright Sound. The area is about 580 miles northwest of Seattle.

Hahn refused to blame any mix-up on the ferry's crew or its handling of the evacuation.

"I know that they specifically went through and knocked on every door," he said. "Did they go through and open each and every cabin door? I don't know the answer to that yet" and won't until all the interviews are completed.

Passengers told about being hustled out of their cabins by crew members and helped into life jackets.

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Hahn said it was hard to imagine Foisy and Rosette could have slept through the crisis — alarms ringing, the ship listing on its side and the sound of water rushing into the vessel through a large gash in its bottom.

The ferry sank in about 1,100 feet of water. A 2 -mile-long oil slick has spread from the sunken ferry, which was carrying 57,200 gallons of diesel on board.

Winds prevented any oil recovery Thursday, although protective booms have been placed along two sensitive shorelines, where Indians harvest clams and mussels.

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