Questions Remain About High-Speed Ferry Crash That Injured 15

The ferry Iyanough hit the jetty and grounded on the rocks at the Hyannis Harbor entrance around 10 p.m. Friday

Questions remain after 15 people were injured when a high-speed ferry struck a jetty in Hyannisport, Massachusetts, and began taking on water on Friday night.

The ferry Iyanough hit the jetty and grounded on the rocks at the Hyannis Harbor entrance around 10 p.m. Friday. It serves a 26-mile route between Nantucket and Hyannis. There were 48 passengers, 6 crew members and 3 food service workers on board the vessel at the time of the mishap.

Bad weather, strong winds and choppy seas are believed to have contributed to the grounding of the Iyanough, the authority said in a statement.

Dean Melanson, Hyannis Fire Department's acting chief, said that "they reported to us that, on the outside, it was 4-foot seas."

That level of swells should have been manageable, in Melanson's opinion.

"This is New England," he said. "Four- to 5-foot swells are not uncommon around here. I think most of the mariners will tell you that's not a huge deal."

The U.S. Coast Guard said rescue crews worked into the night to transfer passengers and ferry crew.

Passengers on board said they were shocked when the crash occurred.

"I didn't know what to do so all of a sudden I grabbed a life vest and I started to give them to some people, and there were people outside who fell over and injured their heads real bad. They were bleeding and there was just chaos at that point," said passenger Kane Barton. "Then everyone started to calm down when we realized we were safely on the rocks."

Coast Guard officials assessed the ferry's damage on Saturday. It's estimated that the vessel will take two to three weeks to fix. In the meantime, a different ferry is making the necessary runs on a somewhat disrupted schedule.

On Saturday night, it was transported to Fairhaven Shipyard in Fairhaven to begin undergoing repairs.

The ferry is operated by the Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket Steamship Authority, connecting the Massachusetts islands with the mainland. It can hold up to 400 people.

"Our concerns, first and foremost, are the safety and well-being of our passengers, and we deeply appreciate the efforts of all who guided them safely to shore," said Wayne Lamson, general manager of the Nantucket Steamship Authority.

Queries about whether or not the ferry should have been operating in Friday night's rough waters have arisen in the wake of the crash.

It's ultimately the captain's decision, and Lamson dismissed those questioning the choice to make that last trip Friday night.

"Should they have been out there? I would think so. That is, we didn't have any issue with that," Lamson said.

There are always two licensed officers on each ferry trip - a captain and a pilot.

Coast Guard Lt. Commander Matt Baker said that "they'll ask the captain how he assessed the weather conditions and, based on his response, it's something we will obviously take a look at."

Baker added that the crew, master, and mate of the ferry will all be interviewed. "We'll look at the electronic navigation system of the vessel - we can download data from that," he said.

Roberta Weisbrod, the executive director of Worldwide Ferry Safety Association, has been studying data on ferry crashes over the 17 years and, from her research, she said that "roughly 80 percent - give or take - is human error."

She called Friday night's conditions serious but not dangerous and said that, at this time, she thinks the crash was probably due to "either pilot error or mechanical failure."

Passengers holding tickets for the high-speed ferry will be accommodated on board the authority's traditional ferries for travel to and from Nantucket.

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