Passengers are questioning the safety of the Wolfe Island ferry after the latest incident

People help a passenger who fell while disembarking the Wolfe Island Ferry at Dawson's Point Terminal on Wednesday night.  (Submitted by Dan Berry - photo credit)

People help a passenger who fell while disembarking the Wolfe Island Ferry at Dawson’s Point Terminal on Wednesday night. (Submitted by Dan Berry – photo credit)

Dan Berry was disembarking from the Wolfe Island ferry at Dawson’s Point Terminal Wednesday night, just as he had done hundreds of times before, when he suddenly felt his dump truck fall.

“I felt the truck go down, the big bang, looked in my mirrors and realized the boat wasn’t there and people were scrambling around,” said Berry, who lives on the island, usually a short trip across the Saint Lawrence River – Electricity removed Kingston, Ont.

Instinct took over and Berry accelerated up the bank ramp, which is normally level but now slopes towards the water.

Once safely ashore, he jumped off his truck and found a pedestrian struggling to climb the ramp and helped guide the man to safety.

In a statement to CBC, a spokesman for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) said there were 81 passengers on board the ferry when it “separated from the dock” while passengers disembarked, some in vehicles and others on foot.

“A passenger disembarking fell when the shore ramp slipped off the ship’s ramp,” it says. “The passenger was assisted near the ramp with the help of other passengers. No injuries were reported.”

The TSB said it considers this a Class 5 investigation, meaning it will confine itself to gathering data on the incident rather than conducting a full investigation.

Berry said the incident left him with concerns.

“I have a lot of questions about the safety of the boat. I mean there have been a lot of issues with this ramp lately.”

Dan Taekema/CBC

Dan Taekema/CBC

MTO takes incident “very seriously”

When the ferry docks, a ramp usually extends from the ferry to form a bridge of sorts with the longer shore ramp, allowing vehicles and pedestrians to disembark.

In a statement, the Ontario Department of Transportation (MTO) said it was taking the incident “very seriously”.

“We are working with Transport Canada and a full internal investigation is being conducted to determine the cause,” the department said.

Wolfe Island Fire Chief Tim Hawkins said firefighters were called to the dock that evening after receiving reports that someone had fallen down the ramp, injuring their knee and shoulder.

When he arrived, the ramps were back in place and the person who reportedly fell was in a truck.

“We were just very lucky that it wasn’t really serious,” Hawkins said.

Bill Coffin said service on the ferry had already been disrupted throughout the day Wednesday due to unrelated emergency calls. After waiting two hours, he finally boarded the ship in Kingston and arrived at Dawson’s Point at around 7:25 p.m

He said the ferry tried to dock several times before finally succeeding, but as a column of cars and trucks began to disembark, the ship suddenly swung away.

Dan Taekema/CBC

Dan Taekema/CBC

islanders concerned

Coffin, who stayed on board with his own vehicle, said when he got a good look, the ferry was more than 20 meters from shore. He said it was another 45 minutes before the crew docked.

“We were all afraid that a truck was gone [into the water]’ Coffin said. “You see, there were three of them and the trucks were moving … and then all of a sudden it started going crazy.”

After the ramps were repositioned, the remaining vehicles were able to drive off.

“There were just a lot of people getting out of the boat very, very carefully, because after seeing that, everyone was worried — ‘Is this going to happen if I get out?'”

Coffin believes the incident could affect passenger confidence in the ferry service and wants the MTO to share its findings with local residents.

“We have a certain right to know,” he said.

Berry said he was not contacted by the MTO or anyone else about his role in the incident. He and his wife Paula said they would like to understand what is being done about issues plaguing the ferry.

“You’re frustrated … because you know it was an accident that should have been avoided,” he said. “It’s no laughing matter. It’s not something you just sweep under the rug.”


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