HYANNIS (CBS) – It was foggy and raining Friday evening when a Nantucket to Hyannis ferry boat crashed into a jetty as it approached Hyannis Harbor.
The Massachusetts Steamship Authority’s high-speed ferry Iyanough ran around about 9:30 p.m. Friday. And Steamship Authority General Manager Wayne Lamson believes the weather was a factor.
“It was kinda choppy out there and hard to see the buoys coming into the inner harbor. So I think that contributed to the incident,” Steamship Authority General Manager Wayne Lamson said.
Whether it was the weather or not, the passengers say it was a rough experience.
“I was asleep on the boat and all of the sudden I felt this huge jolt. I flew forward and looked up, and everyone flew forward,” said passenger Kane Barton. “I didn’t know what to do, so all of the sudden I started grabbing life vests and everything. I started giving it to some people. There were people outside who fell over, injured their head pretty bad and were bleeding. It was chaos at that point.”
Another passenger, Nicholas Ouellette, said a number of passengers got “knocked around.”
“It was pretty violent. like I said there were people on stairwells that got tossed and fell on their face. So it was pretty intense. People that were seated got smacked
around too,” Ouellette said.
One crew member and one food service employee were among the injured.
As the boat began taking on water and the passengers put on life jackets, Coast Guard crews worked into the early morning hours Saturday to rescue the passengers.
A Coast Guard helicopter removed five injured passengers and also airlifted 10 other people from the ferry, which brings visitors from Nantucket to Hyannis.
A total of 59 people were rescued from the ferry. Officials said Saturday that 15 people were injured, though none of those injuries were life-threatening.
Boats also removed people who were stranded on board, but rough seas made the rescues difficult.
“From the Coast Guard’s perspective, the response to the grounding was flawless. The local agencies did an outstanding job of coordinating amongst themselves as well as with the coast Guard. As a result, all of the people were safely evacuated from the vessel,” said Lt. Cmdr. Matt Baker, the chief of incident management at Coast Guard Sector Southeastern New England.
A tugboat removed the ferry from the jetty late Saturday morning.
Baker said the goal of the investigation is to “learn anything we can to make sure that future incidents are avoided.”
There are two licensed operators on ferries at all times. They were described as “experienced mariners” with 60 years of experience between them.
Crew members were tested for alcohol, but investigators do not believe that was a factor in the crash. Results from the test take at least 24 hours.
The Iyanough is back in Fairhaven port for repairs, but the company says it will take at least two weeks to complete the work.
Although Lamson says it was the weather, the cause of the grounding remains under investigation.