Ferry runs aground near Seattle; no injuries reported

SEATTLE (AP) — A passenger ferry carrying hundreds of people ran aground near Bainbridge Island west of Seattle on Saturday, but there were no reports of injuries or contamination, authorities said.

According to Washington State Ferries, a division of the state Department of Transportation, the Walla Walla ran aground in Rich Passage around 4:30 p.m. while traveling from the city of Bremerton to Seattle.

“Initial indications are that the ship suffered a generator failure,” but investigators were still investigating what happened, the agency said.

Passenger Haley Socha said the Seattle Times that the ferry’s lights went out about 20 minutes into the journey and the engines stopped. The lights came on again after a minute and there was an alarm and an announcement that the ship had no power and warning people to prepare for an impact.

People helped each other as they donned life jackets, Socha said.

“Everybody was really nice and good to each other,” Socha told the Times.

According to ferry announcer Diane Rhodes, there were 596 passengers and 15 crew members on board. A tug and the Coast Guard were on site.

“Naval engineers believe the tide will be of the right height to safely tow the boat by midnight. We apologize to the passengers. Your safety is our top priority,” Washington State Ferries said on Twitter.

The passengers were initially kept on board. One passenger suffered a medical emergency unrelated to the landing and had to be evacuated, the agency said.

Around 8 p.m., Kitsap Transit began disembarking others, ferry officials said. The transit agency used two passenger-only ships, the Commander and the Waterman, with capacities of 250 and 150 passengers respectively, which required several trips to Walla Walla. At around 8:30 a.m., Kitsap Transit reported the commander had delivered the first batch of people to the slip at Bremerton.

“We are working on a schedule for the vehicles onboard for passengers to pick them up tomorrow,” Washington State Ferries said.

A photo taken by a Coast Guard officer showed the Walla Walla near shore as people viewed and snapped photos from the beach. A tugboat was positioned at one end of the ferry, with an apparent Coast Guard boat nearby.

“No fouling or hull damage was noted at this time,” the state Department of Ecology reported. “Environmental workers on the way to the site.”

The Seattle-Bremerton route is out of service until further notice, the Department of Transportation said on its website.

The website lists the Walla Walla as a four-engine jumbo-class ferry with a maximum capacity of 2,000 passengers and 188 vehicles. It is 440 feet (134 meters) long and has a draft of 18 feet (5.4 meters).

The Walla Walla was built in Seattle in 1973 and remodeled in 2003, according to the website.


Associated Press writer Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles contributed.


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