WA Ferries blames ship captain for Cathlamet ferry crash

Mar 31, 2023, 10:09 AM | Updated: 11:23 am

ferry crash...

The Cathlament ferry slammed into a wooden piling, known as a dolphin, after coming into the Fauntleroy Dock way off course in the summer of 2022. (Photo from Steve Allen)

(Photo from Steve Allen)

The captain is to blame. That’s the conclusion from the Washington State Ferries in its internal report on the crash of the Cathlamet ferry last summer.

The Cathlamet slammed into a wooden piling, known as a dolphin, after coming into the Fauntleroy Dock way off course. The impact crumbled the front end of the boat, including the pickle fork on the second deck, and damaged several cars.

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Steve Allen, a KIRO Newsradio engineer, was aboard the ferry when it crashed. He described the incident afterward, stating he was “a little shaken up.”

“As we were approaching the Fauntleroy dock, I could tell we were coming in fast and too far to the right, we hit the right side of the dock and started veering towards the beach,” Allen said. “We avoided running aground, but the observation deck got smashed along with two cars on board when metal landed on them.”

Washington State Ferries has concluded that the captain lost “situational awareness” in the pilot house. Why that is might never be known because the captain refused to answer any questions about the crash. He later resigned.

“It can be concluded that Captain [redacted] lost situational awareness while standing at the helm landing the vessel. His asking, “what happened?” to his QM supports that he was unaware of his situation while navigating. Based upon the interviews and information before us, the reasons for this loss of situational awareness are unknown and are also the subject of speculation. Because Capt. [redacted] refused to answer any of the questions presented to him during this process, we cannot draw a definitive conclusion as to the cause of his loss of situational awareness. However, we can conclude that his loss of situational awareness was the primary cause of this incident, and that absent this loss of situational awareness, the allision would most likely not have occurred,” the report said.

Drug and alcohol tests came back negative.

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The captain of the Cathlamet ferry that collided with a terminal structure resigned July 28, 2022, according to a spokesperson for Washington State Ferries (WSF).

The Coast Guard has not finalized its report of the crash. The captain also refused to answer questions from the Coast Guard and NTSB.

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WA Ferries blames ship captain for Cathlamet ferry crash