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B.C. ferry that hit marina 'just kept coming'
CBC Vancouver ^

June 30, 2005

Divers found no victims as they searched the water around a grounded B.C. ferry that missed the West Vancouver terminal and plowed through a crowded marina on Thursday.

The operator, BC Ferries, promised a full investigation to determine why the 7,000-tonne vessel smashed through the marina beside the Horseshoe Bay terminal at about 10:10 a.m. local time. The 7,000-tonne ferry missed the Horseshoe Bay terminal and smashed through a marina.

Witnesses said the Queen of Oak Bay seemed to have lost power before it veered into Sewell's Marina. But David Hahn, the president of BC Ferries, said it was too early to say what caused the crash.

"It's very clear that something went wrong, probably on the mechanical side, but beyond that I can not speculate," Hahn told a news conference on Thursday afternoon.

Canadian Coast Guard divers searched the water around the ferry for two hours before wrapping up at about 1:30 p.m. without finding any victims.

They also checked the hull of the ferry, to ensure that it was safe to move to the dock, so that 544 passengers who had been stuck on board all day could disembark.

"I'm just extremely grateful there was no loss of life or no injuries," Hahn said.

Although initial reports suggested that as many as 20 boats were hit by the ferry, closer inspections revealed that only about six appeared to have been damaged.

'It kept coming and coming'
Witnesses said the ferry, which left Nanaimo for Horseshoe Bay at 8:30 a.m., was blowing its horn as it crashed into the marina.

"It kept coming and coming," Gus Tsogaf, who owns the Bay Moorings Restaurant, told CBC News. "A low speed, but it just kept coming. It just couldn't stop."

As the ferry approached, people who were in the boats or on the docks ran for shore.

Bruce Munroe, who manages the Boat Centre, said he was inside a customer's boat doing repairs and couldn't see the ferry when he heard its horn blow. People line the shore to view the British Columbia ferry Queen of Oak Bay. (CP photo)

At first, he assumed it was a normal warning for a smaller vessel to get out of the way. But when he heard a second, longer blast, he began to move.

"I quickly got out of the boat and started walking away from the ferry toward the main dock," he told CBC News.

"And as I started to walk, you could see the employees of BC Ferries yelling and waving their hands and saying, 'Run! Run! Run!' So I started running." 'As I started to walk, you could see the employees of BC Ferries yelling and waving their hands and saying, "Run! Run! Run!" So I started running.'

Passengers warned before crash
The ferry's passengers said they were told to brace themselves shortly before the impact.

Reached by cellphone while he waited to disembark, passenger Chris Hulsen said he and his family followed the instructions on the loudspeaker.

They raced to their car and fastened their seatbelts, then waited tensely as alarms blared for about a minute before the collision occurred.

"The actual impact itself was really pretty uneventful," Hulsen told CBC News. "If we hadn't been told we were going to crash, we would have thought it was just a normal docking."

Extra ferry runs to be added for weekend
The accident forced BC Ferries to suspend service at the Horseshoe Bay terminal just as the long Canada Day weekend began.

However, at the afternoon news conference, Hahn said the company would be adding extra runs to handle the extra passengers.

The Queen of Oak Bay, which was first launched in 1981, recently underwent $35 million in upgrades and had only returned to service two weeks earlier.

BC Ferries was transformed from a provincially operated Crown corporation into an independent, commercial organization in April of 2003. It is now operated at arm's length from the government of British Columbia.

It's unclear whether the province will be ultimately liable for damages arising from this accident.

Submitted by Kelly T.


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