British Columbia

Truck rolls into harbour when Nanaimo ferry leaves dock early

A pickup truck being loaded onto a small B.C. ferry rolled off the ramp and plunged into Nanaimo Harbour Tuesday evening when the ship unexpectedly left the dock.

A pickup truck being loaded onto a small B.C. ferryrolled off the ramp and plunged into Nanaimo Harbour on Tuesday evening when the ship unexpectedly left the dock.

Driver Randy Nicifore, who was going hometo nearby Gabriola Island,escaped unharmed after a deckhand gave him the signal to stop.
The pickup went into the water off the Nanaimo Harbour ferry dock. (CBC)

"Everything was as usual until I got right to the ramp that goes onto the ferry. And I noticed that one of the deckhands was giving me a stop sign signal from his hand. And I could hear him saying, 'Stop,' which I did," he told CBC Radio.

"And as soon as I stopped, hit the brakes, the ramp fell. And the next thing I know I was basically looking at the ocean in front of me."

Nicifore said he knew as soon as he took his foot off the brake thatthe truck would be gone.

So he opened the door, grabbed a handrailand climbed back up the ramp. The truck sat for a moment and then plunged into the water.

Randy Nicifore managed to get out of his pickup truck before it went off the ramp into the water. ((CBC))
BC Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall saidthe driverwas the only person with a vehicle on the loading ramp at the time.

"Our crews quickly alerted that lone male occupant of that vehicle to exit his vehicle immediately. After the driver left his truck, the vehicle did drop off the ramp and into the water," she told CBC News. "We're quite happy to report that they were no injuries and there were no persons in the water."

The MV Quinsam makes regular 10-minute trips from Nanaimo to Gabriola Island, but sailings were suspended until at least later Wednesday morning, Marshall said. A water taxi was arranged to transport foot passengers.

The vessel was almost loaded when it pulled away from its berth around 6:55 p.m.

BC Ferries president David Hahn said the driver, whowas shaken up, was offered counselling and has contacted an insurance company to replace his truck.

BC Ferries has contacted the Transportation Safety Board to carry out a full investigation.

Three killed in similar accident in 1992

In 1992, three people in a van died and one was injured when the Queen of New Westminster ferry pulled away early from Nanaimo's Departure Bay terminal while loading. The vehicle rolled off the ramp and onto the lower deck before it tumbled into the water.

A Transportation Safety Board investigation ruled the ferry did not follow proper departure procedures and that there was a lack of communication between the ferry crew and the terminal.

More recently, the safety board investigated the March 2006 sinking of BC Ferries' Queen of the North near Prince Rupert and found staff had switched off the ship's global positioning system.

The ferry, with 101 people on board, sailed off courseand ran aground. One couple is still missing and presumed dead.

With files from the Canadian Press