Ferry Loaded With Passengers Slams Into Orcas Island Dock

A ferry filled with 158 passengers and 37 cars crashed into the Orcas Island dock this morning after a propulsion-control failure on the ferry, according to ferry officials.

No one was reported hurt when the ferry Elwha rammed into the terminal about 9:30 a.m., said Washington State Ferries spokeswoman Susan Harris-Huether.

"I was standing on the lawn that overlooks the ferry landing, setting up for a party, when I heard the ferry honking, sounding its foghorn," said Patty Cunningham, who works at the Orcas Hotel, about 100 yards from the landing.

"People at the dock were yelling for everybody to get off the dock," Cunningham said. "Then, it just rammed the dock, and the pilings started cracking."

The ferry then backed up and remained about 100 yards from the terminal, said Patricia Patterson, director of public affairs for the ferry system.

There was no apparent damage to the ferry, although both wing walls at the terminal were damaged, Harris-Huether said.

Ferry officials could not say immediately how long the ferry terminal would be closed, although Patterson said it may be closed at least a few days.

The ferry service is providing a shuttle service from Orcas Island to Shaw Island for passengers, Harris-Huether said.

Ferry officials went to the site this morning to determine the extent of the damage and how to get the passengers and cars off the Elwha, Patterson said.

The same ferry has been involved in at least three previous

accidents, including running into a dock in Anacortes in 1994.

Arthur Santana's phone message number is 206-515-5684. His e-mail address is: asantana@seattletimes.com

------------------------ Ferry mishaps since 1980 ------------------------

These are major mishaps involving vessels operated by Washington State Ferries since 1980:

-- June 1998: At least seven people are hurt when the ferry Sealth crashes into the landing at Colman Dock in Seattle. The ferry was arriving from Bremerton when it rammed the dock, seriously damaging the piling next to the loading ramp.

-- September 1996: The ferry Kitsap runs aground in fog-shrouded Rich Passage on the run from Bremerton to Seattle. No injuries, but six vehicles are damaged, and the Kitsap sustains an estimated $300,000 damage.

-- July 1996: The ferry Elwha nearly runs aground in the San Juan Islands when the skipper goes for an unauthorized 15-mile detour. The captain was fired by the ferry service after an investigation concluded that he had neglected his duties, failed to follow regulations, and tested positive for alcohol or drugs while at work.

-- October 1994: The ferry Issaquah slams into a terminal guide wall at the north end of Vashon Island. Only limited damage, but three days' repair work is required.

-- January 1994: The Elwha loses power in the fog and crashes into the terminal at Anacortes.

-- September 1991: The ferries Sealth and Kitsap collide in heavy fog in Rich Passage just north of Bremerton, injuring one woman. The Coast Guard determines that the two captains failed to use their radar and radios properly. Both were charged with misconduct and negligence, and they were suspended.

-- September 1986: The propulsion system of the Cathlamet malfunctions and the boat slams into the dock at Clinton, Whidbey Island, causing at least $500,000 damage.

-- April 1986: The Hyak runs into a reef near the Anacortes ferry terminal, forcing the evacuation of 250 passengers. The Coast Guard determines that navigational error caused the accident.

-- October 1983: The Elwha wanders off course and hits a reef off Orcas Island, ripping the hull.

-- April 1983: The Rhododendron runs aground near the Port Townsend ferry dock.

-- August 1982: The Issaquah rams the dock at Southworth.

-- April 1982: The Cathlamet drifts from the Mukilteo ferry ramp and a car slips off. No injuries.

-- October 1981: The Klahowya rams into Vashon Island dock, causing $150,000 damage.

-- April 1981: The Walla Walla runs aground off Bainbridge Island.

-- February 1981: The Evergreen State rams into a slip at Vashon Island terminal.

-- January 1981: The Klahowya collides with a Liberian freighter in heavy fog in Elliott Bay. Only minor damage.

-- December 1980: The Issaquah hits the dock at Fauntleroy.