Hyak Ferry Crash Caused by Captain and Trainee Error, According to Investigators

The September Hyak ferry accident that sunk a 27-foot sailboat on the Salish Sea outside Washington State was caused by human error and inattentiveness of the ferry captain and second mate who was in training at the time of the accident. According to an investigation done by Washington State Ferries, the collision between the 382-foot Hyak and 27-foot sailboat was caused by a lack of “situational awareness.”

On September 13, Captain Patricia Whaley was relying solely on radar to direct the ferry through thick fog. Whaley chose a path between the sailboat and another vessel while approaching the Harney Channel, believing there was room to fit. The second mate was at the helm and was in training and relatively new to the route. As the ferry got close to the sailboat, the mate warned the captain. Whaley ordered the second mate to steer to the left (port) and sound the horn. Instead, the mate steered right (starboard) for about four seconds and did not sound the whistle.

Whaley claims she immediately knocked the mate from his post and ordered the engines set in reverse. However, about ten seconds later, the Hyak overtook the sailboat and sunk it to the bottom of the sea. The sailboat operator, Jack Gray, 68, and his dog were rescued by another vessel as their boat sank. The captain and second mate have been on paid administrative leave since the accident and potential discipline is being decided.

Unfortunately, many ferry accidents cause serious injuries or even death for passengers and crew alike. These accidents can often be prevented by following proper safety measures or avoiding negligence by crewmembers.

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