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Captain of wrecked Fauntleroy ferry resigns

Aug. 1, 2022 Updated Mon., Aug. 1, 2022 at 6:41 p.m.

The ferry Cathlamet crashed into the dock at Fauntleroy in West Seattle on Thursday morning, sustaining heavy damage. Washington State Ferries tweeted that no injuries have been reported. Fauntleroy service has been suspended and the terminal is closed.  (Washington State Ferries)
The ferry Cathlamet crashed into the dock at Fauntleroy in West Seattle on Thursday morning, sustaining heavy damage. Washington State Ferries tweeted that no injuries have been reported. Fauntleroy service has been suspended and the terminal is closed. (Washington State Ferries)
By David Kroman The Seattle Times

The captain of the Cathlamet ferry, which veered off course near West Seattle on Thursday and slammed into offshore pilings, has resigned.

The crash did not result in any injuries or hazardous material spills.

Ferry spokesperson Ian Sterling confirmed the captain’s resignation Monday, and that the ferry boat was moving much faster than it should have been at that point in the journey. He said the captain was tested for drugs and alcohol and the results were negative. It remained unclear exactly what was happening on the captain’s deck that caused the crash.

“It truly is a mystery,” Sterling said. “Something went badly wrong there.”

The Cathlamet left Vashon Island, heading east toward the Fauntleroy dock in West Seattle, Thursday morning around 7:55 a.m. Its approach was normal for most of the journey, according to Marine Tracker, a website that charts ships’ path. But as it approached the dock, the boat lurched south. It went so far off course that the side of the ship facing to the north hit the southern group of pilings, known as a “dolphin.”

The collision crumpled one corner of the boat, collapsing the outside portion of the passenger deck known as the picklefork. Several cars were damaged in the collision, with one being trapped by metal where it remains, said Sterling.

Initial estimates of the cost of repairs to the Cathlamet, a 1980s boat that came online as part of the Issaquah class of ferries, is between $5 million and $7 million. That number could easily rise as the investigation continues, said Sterling.

Patty Rubstello, assistant secretary of Washington State Ferries, informed staff of the resignation in a message Monday afternoon, saying the agency would continue working with federal agencies to prevent future incidents.

“Safety continues to be our number one priority for both employees and customers, and I’m thankful that in the history of WSF there has never been a fatality due to a collision,” she wrote.

The Coast Guard is leading the federal investigation, along with the National Transportation Safety Board, while WSF runs its internal investigation. A spokesperson for the Coast Guard said the investigation is in its preliminary stages and did not offer any additional details on the cause of the incident.

“I can tell you they haven’t interviewed my guys yet,” said Dan Twohig, regional representative for the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, whose members aboard the Cathlamet include a mate as well as the captain, whom he declined to name or describe Monday.

“This is a bad accident and nobody got hurt,” Twohig said. “That’s what’s important.”

State Sen. Joe Nguyen, a Democrat whose district includes West Seattle and Vashon Island, said he and his district partner, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, plan to hold a town hall on the incident.

“This is a lifeline for so many members of our community,” he said. “Safety of the ferry fleet in general is an important one to all of us.”

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