Nfld. & Labrador

Death linked to Marine Atlantic ferry turmoil

The family of a man who died after an incident aboard Marine Atlantic ferry last month believes a violent shift in the vessel led to his death.

Multiple factors cited in March incident

The MV Blue Puttees is named after first 500 soldiers to join the Newfoundland Regiment during in the First World War. (Paul Pigott/ CBC)

The family of a man who died following an incident aboard Marine Atlantic ferry last month believes a violent shift in the vessel led to his death.

Marine Atlantic, meanwhile, explained details Friday of what happened on the MV Blue Puttees on March 19, while revealing that a multitude of factors led to the recently renovated ship to pitch and roll.

Former Marine Atlantic employee John Harvey of Port aux Basques, N.L. was reportedly thrown from his bunk and struck his head when the ferry listed violently just off the town early in the morning.

The Crown corporation confirmed Harvey was injured during the incident, although it is waiting for provincial medical officials to determine the cause of the man's death.

Marine Atlantic said, at the time, that a stabilizer retracted when it shouldn't have, causing the ship to pitch and roll.The company said there were minor injuries.

Harvey, 68, got off the ferry but later went to hospital with severe headaches, and died 10 days later.

Eldon Harvey believes the fall caused his brother's death.

"He never had a problem before he got tossed out of that bunk. His wife, she is convinced he got killed by that boat," said Harvey, speaking about the incident that happened less than two weeks after the second-hand Blue Puttees was put into service on the Cabot Strait.

The Newfoundland and Labrador medical examiner's office confirmed Thursday  it was investigating a death that may have been caused by the incident.

Marine Atlantic wasn't commenting Friday about what happened to the former employee who died after the incident except to acknowledge that he was injured while on board the Blue Puttees on March 19.

Company president and CEO Wayne Follett said the company is in close contact with the man's  family and is waiting for the medical examiner to complete the autopsy report before commenting further.

Numerous factors cited

Meanwhile, Marine Atlantic’s internal investigation found that problems on the Blue Puttees happened because of a variety of factors — both environmental, mechanical and human.

Follett told journalists Friday that a stabilizer on the starboard side retracted because there was insufficient amount of hydraulic oil in the system that operates it.

An alarm indicating low oil levels went off just before 4 a.m. An engineer checked it and made a judgment call that the oil didn't need to be topped up, but just after 5 a.m. the stabilizer retracted.

The company said the incident happened when winds were high and seas were heavy.

The first officer reported that the ship was struck by a tall wave and, with one stabilizer retracted, the captain made a quick steering correction to compensate.

The company called the stabilizer malfunction the first in a cascade of events that caused vigorous rolling and a list that lasted about 25 seconds.

Marine Atlantic operates the passenger and vehicle ferry service between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.