Beaumont Hamel crash due to electrical issues, TSB says

A man who was injured when the Beaumont Hamel ferry crashed into the dock in Portugal Cove says he still suffers pain since the accident.
A TSB report says an electrical blackout on the Beaumont Hamel caused it to crash into a dock last year. (CBC)

A man who was injured when the Beaumont Hamel ferry crashed into the dock in Portugal Cove last year says he still suffers pain since the accident.

The Transportation Safety Board concluded a failure to fix recurring electrical problems on the ferry contributed to the collision in May 2012.

According to the TSB, the Bell Island ferry crashed into the dock after an electrical blackout. Rather than docking, an electrical contractor on board troubleshot the issue when it happened.

Keith Sweeney says the provincial government should have done more the ensure the Beaumont Hamel was functioning properly. (CBC)

Keith Sweeney was sitting in his car on the ferry when the vessel struck the dock. The force of the impact jolted his parked car and he rear-ended the car in front of him.

He said since the accident he wakes up each morning with a headache.

"I'm still going through acupuncture for it now and massage therapy," Sweeney said. "I've got problems with my neck ever since."

After learning of the TSB report, Sweeney said the incident could have been prevented.

"We all got pitched around and tossed around. What they need to know is that if you get a problem, solve it — don't just jerry-rig it. Fix it," he said.

There were already eight other failures with the Beaumont Hamel on record with the board before the collision, but the TSB said even more cases went unreported.

Investigators also cited public pressure to keep ferries sailing on a regular basis as a safety issue.

Sweeney's wife Kathleen said the TSB's suggestion that government knew about the problems with the ferry is troubling.

"If you are going to fix a problem, fix it — don't give it a Band-Aid and let it persist. Aren't people's lives in Newfoundland worth it?" she said.

"I don't know if they're concerned about our safety or just the almighty dollar."

However, the Tory MHA for the area, David Brazil, said the province has learned a lot about the problems with the vessel since the incident and has ensured the ferry is in proper working condition before allowing it back in service.

"After that, then it was said, 'Look, nothing moves until we really evaluate how this has to be done,' " Brazil said.

"We spent an exorbitant amount of money to make sure safety was the primary objective and that's what we've done, and since then everything has been working the way that it should."

The Beaumont Hamel was out of commission for more than seven weeks, and the dock was also damaged in the collision.


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