Another near miss for BC Ferries

The local news media is yet again, abuzz with "bad" BC Ferries news. A vehicle went off the loading ramp and into the drink early yesterday night. Although many factors can contribute to any accident, some are drawing parallels to a similar incident that claimed three lives at the Departure Bay terminal in 1992. The ferry does not leave the Departure Bay terminal but rather a smaller terminal further south - see map on the right.

I live near the ferry and at the time it was dark and cold but relatively quiet in the wind department although we had some heavy gust during the day. If I am not mistaken, I remember hearing of controls issues with that ferry in the past, but I believe it had been resolved.

Never the less the people of Gabriola Island, which the ferry serves, has had quite a few weeks. Many storms have lashed the island and now the ferry remains "grounded" by Transport Canada until they are satisfied.

The MV Quinsam is pictured to the right, more info about the vessel can be had here, on John Hammersmark's site. BC Ferries news release is here. Below is the story from theTimes Colonist, a Victoria Newspaper...

Truck falls off Gabriola ferry ramp Driver jumps to safety as vessel pulls away during loading
Kim Westad, Times Colonist, Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A man was forced to jump out of his pickup truck on the loading ramp of the Gabriola Island ferry last night after the ferry pulled away from the dock with the vehicle still on the ramp. The man jumped to the pavement safely, but his truck plunged into the water.

There's no obvious reason why the MV Quinsam would have pulled away from the Nanaimo Harbour berth, B.C. Ferries president David Hahn said last night from Nanaimo.

"That would be speculation. But we know the berth didn't move so we have to assume that for some reason, the ship backed off from its required position against the berth," said Hahn, who was just getting off the Horseshoe Bay ferry in Nanaimo when he was alerted of the incident. Hahn went to the terminal and spoke with the Gabriola Island man.

The Quinsam was almost loaded just before the 6:55 p.m. sailing from Nanaimo to Gabriola Island, a 10-minute trip, when it pulled away from the dock. The 1992 GMC pickup was the only vehicle on the loading ramp.

The driver had been signalled by a deckhand to load, Hahn said. Then he was signalled to stop. The driver knew the vehicle was in a "funny position," Hahn said. Then the deckhand shouted at the man to get out of the truck.

The man -- whose name was not released, and is described as a regular on the ferry -- jumped onto the pavement. Hahn talked to him shortly afterwards. "He handled it very well. He was shook up, as I know I would be. I've got to give him credit. He said, 'I'm just glad I didn't get wet.' "

The man has been offered counselling, was put up in a hotel and put in touch with an insurance company to replace his truck. Several investigations are underway, including those by the Transportation Safety Board, the police, Transport Canada and B.C. Ferries.

In 1992, three people died after their van rolled into the water when the Queen of New Westminster pulled out of the Departure Bay terminal in Nanaimo with the vehicle still on the ramp. Ferry service to Gabriola was suspended last night and this morning. B.C. Ferries arranged a water taxi to transport people to Gabriola last night and today.

After the incident, the Quinsam completed its Gabriola run, and is now tied up as the investigations continue.