British Columbia

BC Ferries ship plowed into Langdale dock because of crew error, investigation finds

A BC Ferries ship that crashed into part of a dock in March was going too fast at the wrong angle due to a series of mistakes by the crew, an internal investigation has found.

Queen of Surrey crashed into Langdale terminal dock in March, leaving passengers trapped on board for hours

The Queen of Surrey sits atop a dock at the Langdale ferry terminal on March 26 after missing its approach around 8 a.m. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

A BC Ferries ship that crashed into part of a dock in March was going too fast at the wrong angle due to a series of mistakes by the crew, an internal investigation has found.

The Queen of Surrey plowed into a section of the Langdale terminal on March 26 with enough speed to mangle part of the bow and car deck.

Hundreds of passengers were trapped for about 10 hours as staff worked to free the ship, its fender-like front section hooked on the structure. No one was injured.

BC Ferries' investigation into what happened has found the pair of officers on the ship's bridge did not follow a pre-arrival checklist as they sailed toward the dock. The vessel had not been slowed properly for arrival, and the turn toward the dock was poorly aimed, according to the investigation report. 

"The reason why they didn't use the checklist is simply because they were under various pressures at the time due to the fact that it's a large ship arriving in a dock on a timeline and somebody made a mistake," said Darren Johnston, executive director of fleet operations for BC Ferries.

Johnston said the ferry was on schedule and properly staffed.

The ferry ended up stuck on the dock after running into it just after 8 a.m. (Lisa Gordon/Facebook)

BC Ferries vessels are equipped with autopilot and other navigational features, which are active for the better part of the voyage, but autopilot is always disabled for departure and arrival. Docking is intentionally left in the hands of the crew.

"[For departure and arrival] we rely on the human beings that steer and propel and navigate the ship to take over ... just because of the, usually, much higher reliability and quicker response," Johnston said in phone call Friday.

Video from the beach shows the ferry sitting atop the dock, far from where it should have berthed. 

BC Ferries ship stuck after dock crash at Langdale terminal

4 years ago
Duration 0:13
The Queen of Surrey crashed into a dock at the Langdale terminal around 8 a.m. on March 26, 2019. BC Ferries said 285 passengers were onboard at the time, though no injuries were reported.

The executive said he couldn't speak to "any disciplinary action that may or may not have been taken" in regards to the crew on the bridge.

Johnston said the corporation has made a number of operational changes in light of the report — among them, an increase in staffing at the helm. A third officer will now be at the bridge for every BC Ferries sailing.

'All of a sudden: Bam!'

More than 280 passengers were trapped on the ship for hours as a tugboat worked to free it. Passengers were preparing to disembark when a frantic crew member's voice jolted from the intercom just before the collision around 8 a.m. PT.

"She says, 'Brace brace brace!' And then she repeats it and says, 'Brace for impact!'" Steph Halmhofer told CBC News later that day, recalling the staff warning. "All then, all of a sudden: Bam!"

Nearly 300 people were stuck on the ferry for 10 hours after it crashed into the dock. (Kurt Penner)

Halmhofer said most people on board were calm. Passengers developed a sense of camaraderie, stuck together on a ship with little for entertainment. The inescapable delay was punctuated by a brief moment of levity: an intercom message about someone who had lost their pants.


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