A ferry worker turning right when the boat captain told her to turn left was the reason the ferry Hyak hit a 25-fooot sailboat.
But the worker who failed to know the difference between right and left is still being paid – and she may keep her job.
The crash happened Sept. 13 as the ferry approached the Orcas ferry dock, and the cause of the collision was outlined in an investigation report released Wednesday. The captain of the 25-foot sailboat Tasya had to be rescued from his sinking boat.
“When I turned around, I saw the hull punching into my stern,” sailboat owner Jack Gray said.
Investigators say Second Mate Kirsten Hervey was at the helm. She was ordered by Capt. Patricia Whaley to turn to port – the nautical term for left. Instead, Hervey turned to starboard – right – according to the report issued Wednesday by the State Department of Transportation.
The “root cause of this incident was human error due to lack of situational awareness,” the report states. Hervey and Whaley are on paid administrative leave.
Captain Whaley then took control of navigation but it was too late -- the ferry had already slammed into the sailboat.
The report says that in addition to the “lack of situational awareness,” the ferry crew wasn’t adequately keeping track of other boats in the area.
The director of the Washington State ferry system, David Moseley, said there are “steps to do what we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
But he didn’t say if the crew that caused the collision will keep their jobs or not.
“It will be up to me to decide what happens next,” Moseley said.
The collision investigation report had recommendations, including more training, improved communication and the possibility of adding black box recording devices to all Washington State ferries.
Right now, only two ferries have black boxes and they’re on routes that go into international waters.
It’s not clear how much the black boxes or other recommendations would cost.