A British woman fought in vain to keep her unconscious Australian boyfriend afloat and alive after they were flung into the sea off western Canada when a whale-watching boat capsized.

Danielle Hooker, 28, had hold of Rav Pillay, 27, in the water with the assistance of another survivor as they awaited rescue. But Canadian police have told how in the heavy swell, and growing exhausted, Hooker was unable to save both herself and Pillay.

“It’s him or them,” said a police spokesman, Constable Jim Preston. “They let go or they just can’t hold him any more and he goes under. He goes straight down. They say the last thing that they saw is him disappearing into the water.”

Hooker also lost her father, Nigel Hooker, 63, from Southampton, when the Leviathan II sank near the resort of Tofino, Vancouver Island. Her sister, Aimee, survived the capsizing of the vessel after local fishmen picked them up.

Pillay’s body was still missing on Wednesday after police divers suspended the search because of poor weather. Five others who drowned were British. Twenty-one people were rescued.

Danielle Hooker went to a local airport on Wednesday to meet members of Pillay’s family as they arrived in Tofino.

Pillay lived in Sydney but was born in South Africa and grew up in Durban. His parents, Mike and Judy Pillay, his brother, Kereshan, and his sisters, Surina and Survana, updated their social media profiles to feature pictures of Pillay.

Kereshan, who posted a picture of himself and his brother with a group of family and friends, wrote: “This is everything Rav was about.”

Nigel Hooker’s family issued a statement saying they were in “complete shock and disbelief and struggling to come to terms” with his death.

Source: Whale-watching accident: Australian victim slipped from girlfriend’s hands