SEATTLE — An investigation into the collision of a Washington state ferry and a sailboat two months ago in the San Juan Islands found human error by the ferry’s captain and second mate was responsible, the Transportation Department said.
A report by the department’s board of inquiry released Wednesday said the captain lost situational awareness and gave a late command to turn left that the second mate applied in the wrong direction.
Washington State Ferries is making changes to prevent similar incidents in the future, said the agency’s director, David Mosely.
The Coast Guard is still investigating. The captain and second mate are on paid administrative leave while the Ferries Division considers possible discipline, the Kitsap Sun reported Wednesday.
The 382-foot Hyak was on the way from Lopez Island to Orcas Island on Sept. 18 when it overtook the motoring 25-foot sailboat Taysa from behind.
After the collision the sailboat sank in 250 feet of water. The only person on board, 68-year-old Jack Gray of Chimacum, was rescued by nearby boaters.
Gray was checked for hypothermia and chest pain at a Friday Harbor hospital. His lawyer, Terry McGee of Seattle, said Gray expects the state to pay his medical bills and the cost of the sailboat.
The investigation determined the collision was avoidable, finding The Hyak had adequate time, equipment and sea room to avoid the boat.
“The root cause of this incident was human error due to loss of situational awareness,” the report states.
Capt. Patricia Whaley was in charge of the navigational watch and Second Mate Kirsten Hervey was at the helm, the report states.
No phone listing could be found for Whaley or Hervey, and a message left with their union was not immediately returned.
According to the report, Hervey told Whaley the Hyak was getting close to the sailboat. The captain directed her to “come left and blow the whistle if you feel it is necessary.” Hervey put the rudder to starboard instead of port for about four seconds, realized the mistake and went full left rudder, the report said. Seeing that, Whaley ordered the engines full astern and took the helm from Hervey before hitting the sailboat.
Investigators said Whaley made a series of mistakes, including giving a late and nonspecific rudder command. They said Hervey understood the command but applied the rudder in the wrong direction.
The report’s recommendations include a bridge team management training program, refresher training for officers in charge of navigational watches, and installing voyage data recorders.