Investigation finds human error in Hyak collision

WSF implementing system-wide improvements to help prevent future incidents

SEATTLE – A recent investigation concludes that human error was responsible for a collision Sept. 13 between Washington State Ferries vessel Hyak and a motor yacht.

The incident happened at the confluence of Harney and Upright channels in the San Juan Islands, where the Hyak’s starboard bow collided with the port quarter of the yacht.

The sole occupant of the yacht Tasya was rescued by a nearby vessel and taken to Orcas Island. On the day of the incident, WSF convened a board of inquiry to investigate the collision. The board collected a wide array of data and information and spent more than 30 hours meeting to examine evidence and make its determination.

According to the report, investigators determined this incident was avoidable as the Hyak had adequate time, equipment capability and "sea room" to avoid the collision. Weather, visibility, tides and currents were not factors in this incident. The report states that the root cause of this incident was human error due to lack of situational awareness.

"We conducted a thorough and detailed investigation into what happened and why," said David Moseley, WSDOT assistant secretary, ferries division. "We’re now shifting our focus to making improvements to prevent future incidents."

The report provides six recommendations for system-wide improvements that could help prevent similar incidents:

· All employees who act as a part of a navigational watch must attend the WSF Bridge Team Management training program.

· A refresher training program should be developed for officers in charge of a navigational watch.

· The roles, responsibilities and duties of the newly assigned second mates on Super Class vessels should be formally incorporated into policies and procedures.

· The relative roles and responsibilities should be defined for crewmembers in the performance of the “V” maneuver.

· Voyage Data Recorders should be considered on all WSF vessels.

· The qualification process should be reviewed for quartermaster/helmsman duties.

WSF is taking the necessary steps based on the investigative panel’s recommendations. The report has been referred to the director of operations as well as human resources for further review and consideration.


The boater Jack Gray wrote this description of the collision:

"I heard a loud crunch. Turning around I saw the ferry hull coming over my stern and everything growing dark and flooding...like a slow motion horror film."

In an email to boating club members, Jack Gray described his experience last Friday afternoon when his 25-foot Fisher sailboat was struck by the Hyak, a WSF Super-Class ferry. He was enroute to Deer Harbor.

"I had been fogged in at James Island after crossing the Straits a couple days earlier. As Friday approached, skies were clearing, so I set out for your gathering. I made it half way, as now you have seen.

I've been sailing these waters for over 50 yrs, and never considered the State Ferries to be a hazard - until now.

It literally came up from behind, without horn, and quickly while I was at the wheel listening to traffic and making some radar screen adjustments just for testing.

I was so surprised to come out alive, after feeling so close to death.

I remember seeing ferry at the Lopez dock about a mile away. While at the helm in my pilot house and trying to adjust my radar functions, I heard a loud crunch.

Turning around I saw the ferry hull coming over my stern and everything growing dark and flooding...like a slow motion horror film..."

Gray and his dog were rescued by people onboard another boat. His boat sank as it was being towed.

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