The Walla Walla, a Washington state ferry, ran aground near Seattle on Saturday, without injuries.
The Walla Walla left Bremerton on time at 4:15 pm, with almost 600 passengers on board heading for Seattle. Shortly after departure, in the close confines of Rich Passage, the ship lost power for a minute. The lights came back on swiftly, and an announcement was made for passengers to prepare for impact. The vessel ran gently aground on the shallows to the north of the passage, just a few yards from the shore of Bainbridge Island.
According to passenger Haley Socha, the crew and fellow passengers all worked together to make the accident as pleasant as possible, helping one another don life vests.
“Vessel engineers believe tide will be at the right height to safely tow the boat at midnight. We apologize to passengers. Their safety is our first priority,” announced the Washington State Ferry Twitter account.
For several hours, passengers were kept on board, as the vessel was in no danger of sinking or tilting dangerously. One passenger had a medical emergency unrelated to the grounding, and was removed via the vessel’s rescue boats to shore.
But after 8pm, Kitsap Transit’s smaller, passenger-only ferries arrived to help evacuate all passengers from the Walla Walla.
“We’re working on a plan for the vehicles onboard so passengers can retrieve them tomorrow,” Washington State Ferries said. There were approximately 170 vehicles aboard.
The efficient way in which this was handled is emblematic of the solid safety record of the Washington State Ferries, which have served the Puget Sound for 72 years and is the second-largest vehicular ferry system in the world. The ferry Sealth was brought up from Vashon to complete one last Seattle-to-Bremerton run Saturday night, and by Sunday morning, the ferry Issaquah was running the Walla Walla‘s regular route, putting the WSF back on schedule.
Really, the only chilling note on the entire affair is the date it happened. April 14th. The 111th anniversary of the sinking of the HMS Titanic.
Photo: Ian Dewar Photography / Shutterstock