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San Juan Islands, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 500, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.

13 June 2013

❖ Ferry Fatalities at ACTIVE PASS ❖ 1970

Active Pass, British Columbia
3 August 1970,
from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
On 3 August 1978, the B. C. ferry QUEEN OF VICTORIA, recently returned to service after having been lengthened to 426-ft, was negotiating the sharp turns of Active Pass near the midpoint of her regular run from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island. Capt. R. J. Pollack was on the bridge, with quartermaster Peter Van Sickle at the helm as the big ferry passed Mary Anne Point light on Mayne Island at about noon. The helmsman later said that a fishing boat had forced the ferry to maintain a course more to port and further from the shore than was normal.
      Meanwhile, just out of sight behind Helen Point, the 14,700-ton Russian bulk carrier SERGEY YESINEN was steaming toward the ferry, inbound for Vancouver heavily laden with steel products from Yokohama. Capt. David Crabbe, the Canadian pilot aboard the freighter, had opted for the short route to Vancouver through Active Pass, although ocean vessels generally take the longer but less restricted route around Turn Point.
      As the Russian ship rounded the point, her helm was set to port, which put her on a collision course with the ferry, which was somewhat further to port than she should have been. Whistles blasted and both vessels reversed engines, but within two minutes of the time they sighted each other, the clipper-like bow of the 530-ft freighter had knifed half way through the port side of the ferry just forward of the funnel. The force of the collision was such that many passengers on QUEEN OF VICTORIA believed an explosion had occurred. At the point of impact on the car deck, a young Victoria mother, Ann Hammond, had just stepped from the family car with her infant son Peter in her arms when the freighter sliced into the ferry. They were later found trapped under the wreckage of two other automobiles. The baby was dead; the mother died that night at a Sidney hospital. Above decks, a 17-yr old New Jersey girl, Sheila Taylor, had been sitting in a lounge. Her legless body was found later on top of a wrecked car on the auto deck below, where Mrs. Hammond and her child had died. Seven other passengers were injured seriously enough to require hospitalization. The loss of life would doubtless have been greater had not alert crew members taken advantage of the seconds available to them to herd passengers below from the upper deck solarium just forward of the funnel near the point of impact.
      Following the collision, there was a brief period of panic among the passengers, but order was quickly restored, life jackets were distributed and lifeboats prepared for lowering, as Canadian Coast Guard and private vessels stood by to render aid. The bow of the freighter was kept pressed into the 40-ft gash in the ferry's side until it was determined that most of the damage was above the waterline. By evening the QUEEN had returned to the Tsawwassen terminal under her own power to discharge passengers and vehicles, after which she proceeded to North Vancouver for extensive damage repairs. The SERGEY YESINEN suffered only minor bow damage. A review board subsequently attributed major blame for the collision to Capt. Crabbe and ordered his pilot license suspended for 15-months. The decision was appealed and Capt. Crabbe continued in service until a federal court of appeals subsequently exonerated him of all charges.
Above text from The H. W. McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest (1966-1976); edited by Gordon Newell. Superior Publishing Co., 1977. Issue #187

Below note. Bremerton Sun, (AP) from Vancouver, B.C. 4 August 1970:
"A home movie buff may provide the best evidence of what caused the B.C. ferry QUEEN OF VICTORIA  and the Soviet freighter SERGEY YESENIN to collide, killing three ferry passengers.
      The amateur movies, shot by Ed Johnson, New Westminster, confirm the absence of large numbers of smaller boats. The amateur movies came to light as three investigations opened into the accident. Johnson was jugging herring just inside Helen Point on Mayne Island when he saw the freighter entering the Pass. He picked up his movie camera; the film he shot showed the freighter swing well into mid-channel, then belch black smoke as it went into reverse trying to avoid the collision. The ferry appeared almost dead in the water."
A map with Active Pass can be viewed here

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