King 5 News visits Lopez to interview ferry passengers

Lopez Island made the evening news last week when six cars were severely damaged by wind and waves on a Washington State Ferry.

by Colleen Smith Armstrong and Claudia Bradley

Lopez Island made the evening news last week when six cars were severely damaged by wind and waves on a Washington State Ferry.

Reporters from King 5 television visited Lopez School on Wednesday, Feb. 6 to talk with school counselor Jeanna Carter, whose car was totaled when high winds brought waves onto the car deck of the M/V Sealth on Tuesday, Feb. 5. The segment aired at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 6.

According to Susan Harris, Customer Information Manager for Washington State Ferries, the Sealth departed Anacortes for Lopez and Shaw at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 5. Captain Jack Santi, a 41-year veteran, noted Rosario Strait was rough, but not unusual. The boat unloaded cars on Shaw, and then headed to Lopez, where it loaded cars bound for Anacortes. The captain ordered the crew to “short-load” the vehicles: cars were placed two car-lengths from the tagline, which is located several feet from the bow of the boat.

Halfway across Rosario Strait, the boat hit rough weather, encountering swells eight to 10 feet with deep troughs. The captain dropped his speed and continued forward. While passing Strawberry Island, a swell crashed over the bow, damaging six vehicles. Carter’s vehicle, which was parked on one side of the centerline of the boat, had its windshield knocked out. Water rushed in and swept her son Terrell’s laptop and school books away. By chance, Jeanna and Terrell were both upstairs on the ferry. Other cars knocked into one another, but no one was injured as a result of the damage.

“Captain Jack Santi is one of the most experienced captains in the fleet,” said Harris. “In an incident such as this, there is no one better to have had in the wheelhouse.”

Once the Sealth arrived in Anacortes, Carter’s car was towed, and Washington State Ferries assisted drivers with accident reports. The noon and 1:40 sailings from Anacortes were cancelled.

“The Sealth J-watch crew was extremely helpful and compassionate. Laura Kohler offered to drive me and Terrell to the towing company. When I explained that Terrell was on his way to the DMV in Anacortes for his drive test, she offered to drive us to the DMV and let them know that he did not have a car to take the test with. On the way into town, Laura generously offered Terrell her car for the drive test. Terrell took the test and passed!” said Carter.

The Lopez High School boys’ basketball team, which was named the number one team in Washington state for the Class 1B division last week, was also on the boat. Coach Brad Smith was interviewed for the King 5 report. The Lobos’ first District play-off game was Saturday, Feb. 9 against the Clallam Bay versus Lummi game held on Feb. 8. Games were played after the Islands’ Weekly deadline, so results cannot be reported.