Christine Tam was sitting in her car Tuesday morning on a passenger ferry plying the waters between British Columbia's Gulf Islands when she felt the vessel jolt to a stop with a loud crash.
The Queen of Nanaimo had slammed into the dock on Mayne Island, a bucolic recreational getaway about 40 kilometres southwest of Vancouver. The crash injured several people and left about 200 stranded on the ferry for hours.
"It was pretty scary - you could definitely tell it was a pretty major impact," said Ms. Tam, a 27-year-old broadcast journalism student who was heading home to Vancouver from Pender Island. "The car just started shaking and the ferry shook for a couple of seconds."
BC Ferries said the ferry hit the dock at Village Bay at about 7:30 a.m., damaging the terminal and the ship. The Queen of Nanaimo's sailings were suspended, but the ferry terminal was still operating because Village Bay has two berths.
The company said four passengers and one crew member were injured. One was airlifted to a Vancouver hospital with head injuries, while another was treated at a nearby hospital for rib injuries.
After the ferry stopped moving, Ms. Tam got out of her car and walked to the front of the ship, where there were motorcycles toppled over and the dock's vehicle ramp was visibly damaged.
"The ramp from the terminal was up and we were just jammed into the terminal," she said. "The ramp definitely looks messed up."
An announcement over the loudspeaker asked whether any doctors were on board the ship, and minutes later Ms. Tam saw an injured passenger on a stretcher. The RCMP then interviewed some of the passengers and the ferry's crew handed out free food while they waited, Ms. Tam said.
Ms. Tam said passengers were told another vessel was on the way to carry them to their destinations once BC Ferries determined how to get the vehicles off the ship.
After several hours, the passengers were allowed off and have since been able to carry on to their destinations.
Mike Corrigan, the chief operating officer for BC Ferries, said it was too early to speculate why the ship crashed into the dock, but the company has launched an investigation.
He said BC Ferries operates 180,000 sailings a year and hard landings such as Tuesday's are "very, very rare."
"In a service as complex as BC Ferries and as many sailings as that, unfortunately, there are going to be incidents," Mr. Corrigan said in an interview. "We've got to minimize them and learn from them."
Unless a replacement vessel is put into place, ferry service between the Lower Mainland and the Gulf Islands was expected to be disrupted until the Queen of Nanaimo returns to service, Mr. Corrigan said. That means passengers from the Vancouver area sailing to the Gulf Islands will need to travel to Victoria first.
Several BC Ferries vessels have experienced hard landings in recent years. The most serious was in June 2005 when the Queen of Oak Bay lost power while docking at Horseshoe Bay, west of Vancouver.
No one was hurt, but the large vessel slammed into a nearby dock and damaged several smaller boats.
As for Ms. Tam, she was taking her rough ferry ride on Tuesday in stride. "I think it's something that happens; ferries are unpredictable," she said.
"It's better to be stuck here than have something happen out in the water and have it be worse."