Elwha cleared of bomb threat | Suspicious note prompted investigation

A note stuck to the mirror in the women’s restroom on the Elwha prompted an investigation by the state bomb squad.

On July 1 at 1:32 p.m., the San Juan County Sheriff’s office received a call from a Washington State Ferries employee who discovered a sticky note containing the word “bomb” and numbers and days of the week.

“It was cryptic and weird and odd enough that it gave the ferry workers pause and gave us pause,” San Juan County Sheriff Ron Krebs said.

The U.S. Coast Guard determined the vessel should be tied to the Friday Harbor dock and all personnel evacuated. The boat was empty of all passengers and vehicles at the time staff disembarked. All ferry service in and out of Friday Harbor was shut down awaiting the arrival of the Washington State Patrol Bomb Squad, which flew in by helicopter to the Port of Friday Harbor. At 5:30 p.m., Deer Harbor Charters took Orcas Islanders home from Friday Harbor at no cost.

“Everyone was more worried about when the ferry was going to get back in service and when they’d get to go home,” Krebs said. “We couldn’t tell people how long it was going to be.”

With the help of bomb disposal teams from the King County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Patrol and the U.S. Coast Guard, a K-9 bomb detection unit went aboard the vessel. At 6:30 p.m., the Elwha was determined to be clear of any explosive hazards, and by 7 p.m. ferry services had resumed. An investigation by the Washington State Patrol will be conducted into the circumstances surrounding the note.

“State patrol has access to all the camera footage,” Krebs said.

Anyone with information about the incident is urged to call the sheriff’s office at 360-378-4151.

“We don’t go to this type of scale when it’s a backpack left in the cabin of the ferry. But you get someone who has deliberately placed a note in the bathroom and has the word bomb in it — someone put it there for a reason. So you take that more seriously,” Krebs said. “It was a real bomb threat but we are very fortunate it was a false alarm.”