An investigation has concluded that the ferry’s crew caused the September collision between the ferry Hyak and a sailboat in Puget Sound.

Investigation: Crew to Blame in Puget Sound Ferry Accident

Posted on Dec 11, 2013

Washington State Ferries has concluded that a September boat collision between a ferry and a sailboat in Puget Sound was due to human error.

According to the Seattle Times, the ferry Hyak was traveling between Lopez and Orcas islands off the coast of Washington on September 16 when Captain Patricia Whaley chose a path to navigate through Harney Channel. When the ferry began approaching the sailboat, she asked the second mate, who was in training, to steer to port and sound the horn. The second mate erroneously steered in the opposite direction and did not sound the horn.

Although the captain threw the engines in reverse and steered away from the boat, she could not avoid a collision. The ferry struck the sailboat on the port side, puncturing it. The man aboard the sailboat, 68-year-old Jack Gray, was rescued along with his dog from the sinking boat by a third vessel. The sailboat sunk while being pulled ashore.

Both the captain and the second mate are currently on paid administrative leave while Washington State Ferries reviews the investigation and make a decision regarding the consequences of their mistake.

The Washington ferryboat accident, which is the first in at least six years, has many ferry officials considering the importance of voyage-data recorders (VDRs), instruments that would make boat accident investigations much easier. Currently, only two Washington ferries have the systems, because they travel internationally to Canada. Although VDRs would help prevent and explain boat accidents, industry officials say the cost is prohibitive and all crewmembers would have to receive extensive training.

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