An RCMP dive team is unable to reach a sunken vehicle that broke through a barrier gate and drove off a docked BC Ferries boat early Wednesday.

Police have confirmed one person was in the vehicle that launched into the deep water off Gabriola Island early this morning. But RCMP dive teams will not attempt any more dives in the area today. 

Mike Corrigan, president and CEO of BC Ferries, said little is known about the circumstances of the crash.

"We know that there was a vehicle travelling at an extremely high rate of speed that smashed through a six foot barrier gate, and continued on through the trestle on to the ship and into the water," he said.

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A vehicle drove off the deck of the MV Quinsam at around 3:45 a.m. Wednesday morning. (BC Ferries)

"Obviously somebody must have been driving that vehicle, but we don't know anything else other than that."

Late Wednesday morning, RCMP divers told BC Ferries that they would not be able to reach the vehicle.

The water where it went under is around 48 metres deep, and the RCMP dive team is not capable of going to that depth. Officials said a military or private dive team would have to be called in.

Early morning mystery

A release from BC Ferries said the vehicle went into the ocean in the middle of the night, at about 3:45 a.m. PT.

Officials say a vehicle at the Descanso Bay terminal sped through the gate at the top of the loading trestle. The vehicle then sped up and launched off the loading ramp and landed on the deck of the MV Quinsam, which was tied up in dock.

49.177839,-123.858524Descanso Bay ferry terminal

The car sped along the length of the ferry and flew off the end of the boat deck. The vehicle plunged into the water, and sank.

At 6 a.m., BC Ferries said it had cancelled all sailings between Gabriola Island and nearby Nanaimo Harbour until further notice. It said it has arranged water taxi service for foot passengers.

Corrigan said that before the ferry and loading ramp are put back into service, a full inspection will have to be performed.

Gabriola RCMP, a Coast Guard hovercraft, firefighters and BC Ambulance Services were at the terminal Wednesday assessing the situation.

With files from the CBC's Steve Lus and Lisa Cordasco