WATCH: An accident during a routine safety drill led to five-sailing waits heading into the long weekend. Tess van Straaten reports. Clips of the Queen of Cumberland courtesy of Curtis Simonetta.
Long lines are all too common at BC Ferries on long weekends but the travel troubles today are especially bad.
There was a staggering five-sailing wait at both Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen before lunchtime — the worst all year — in what is a record year for vehicle traffic.
Outside Swartz Bay, traffic was backed up all the way down the highway and the terminal looked more like a parking lot after an accident during a routine safety drill on the Spirit of Vancouver Island around 6 a.m. sent two workers to hospital.
“Something happened and the boat rocked unexpectedly and it threw the crew members out of the boat and into the water,” explains BC Ferries CEO Mark Collins. “The boat then deployed down into the water automatically.”
The workers are believed to have minor injuries but four sailings had to be cancelled, causing a major backlog.
“I’m really unhappy with the BC Ferries reservation system because we were here before the 7 a.m. sailing and it was only 58 per cent full and now we’re getting bumped by reservations and we could be sitting here until this evening waiting to board,” one frustrated customer told CHEK News.
A similar safety drill accident in April on the Queen of Cumberland saw two workers fall into the water. The mechanism that lowers the boat failed, seriously injuring one of the workers.
The union representing B.C. ferry workers issued a statement saying a second “substantial failure” in just a few months is a “deep concern”. Several investigations, including ones by WorkSafe BC, are now underway.
BC Ferries says it’s too soon to say what caused the latest accident but officials are vowing to do whatever it takes to get long weekend travel back on track.
“We recognize people have plans and we certainly apologize for the disruption,” says Collins. “We’ll do whatever is necessary but we will get people to their destinations today.”
As for why the drill was scheduled for the long weekend in the first place, BC Ferries says they do thousands of drills a year and it’s rare for something to go wrong.