Update: Ferry takes it on the nose

Steve Bartlett
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Bell Island parent says passengers warned by student

The damage to the bow of the ferry Beaumont Hamel is clearly visible after the vessel lost power and rammed the dock in Portugal Cove Wednesday morning. The ship will be out of service indefinitely until the cause of the mishap is known and the damage is repaired. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

According to Bell Island resident Kelly Russell, the only warning passengers aboard the Beaumont Hamel ferry had Wednesday morning that the vessel had lost power and was going to hit the dock was from a student passenger.

Russell, who had family members on the vessel at the time, said the student warned others to brace themselves, that the ferry was going to hit.

Russell sent an email to media this morning expressing his concerns about the incident.

He also said two students were diagnosed with concussions at the hospital on Bell Island Wednesday night. Another student was examined at hospital Wednesday and released.

It should be investigated, noted Russell, why the Beaumont Hamel was unable to drop anchor and how the vessel passed its latest inspection.




(Earlier story)

A student was examined in hospital and released, but no one was seriously injured when the MV Beaumont Hamel collided with the dock in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s Wednesday morning.

However, the ferry took a shot in the visor, the section of the bow that rises for cars and trucks to board. It sustained a large dent.

Transportation and Works Minister Tom Hedderson said preliminary reports indicate a mechanical issue caused the ferry to lose reverse propulsion.

“That prevented the boat from slowing down properly,” he told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

Provincial and federal transportation officials have begun an investigation.

The Beaumont Hamel will now be out of commission until the visor is fixed and the cause of the mishap is determined.

It was only put back on the Bell Island run a few days ago. It had been out of service for repairs to a leaky thruster seal. Hedderson said the 27-year-old ferry had passed inspection before it went back on The Tickle.


Flanders called into service


“So there were no known issues with the vessel when it sailed today,” he said.

The MV Flanders, which had been off-line for minor repairs, was promptly put back into the service Wednesday afternoon.

Hedderson spoke with the media in the early afternoon. At the time, he said there were no injuries, that everyone got off the ferry and went about their business.

However, later in the day, the Eastern School District confirmed a student from St. Michael’s High School on Bell Island had been examined in hospital and released.

A source said there were 25 students from the school on the Beaumont Hamel at the time, as well as 20 exchange students from Ontario.

The ferry struck the dock around 10 a.m. and was about a boat length away at the time.

Hedderson and area MHA David Brazil, who also addressed the media, lauded the crew’s handling of the collision.

The visor was up when propulsion was lost. The workers quickly lowered it, further protecting passengers and vehicles. They also got the anchor in the water quickly, which helped slow the ship down.

“The crew did yeoman service in reacting in that minute before the actual (impact),” Hedderson said, adding if the visor were up when the ship struck, the damage would have been significant.

Bell Island resident Bill Hunt was in the ferry lineup to go home Wednesday morning as investigators had the Beaumont Hamel barred off.

He said he’s been on the vessel when similar things have happened.

It shouldn’t be on the run, he said.

“She blacks out,” Hunt said, sitting in the cab of his pickup. “We’ve been out there, I’d say seven or eight times, and she just automatically shuts down.”

He said the boats are obsolete and he wants the province to do something about it.

“Kathy Dunderdale, all I hear is Muskrat Falls, when there’s more things in Newfoundland that needs to be done. ... She’s not paying attention to what needs to be done.”

The Beaumont Hamel’s bang-up was raised on the floor of the House of Assembly, too.

NDP critic George Murphy said the incident raises questions, and he asked Hedderson if provincial ferries have voyage data recorders, as recommended by Transport Canada in 2008.

The minister replied that everything has been done to make sure that those ferries are safe.

Murphy also questioned Hedderson on the plan for replacing Bell Island’s ferries.

Hedderson recapped what occurred, but didn’t provide details on vessel replacement.

He told journalists the province would consider new ferries for Bell Island run after it replaces the MV Capt. Earl W. Windsor, on the Change Islands-Fogo Island run.

Hedderson said he thinks the Beaumont Hamel and its sister ships are serving the province well.



Twitter: @SteveBartlett_

Organizations: High School on Bell Island, Transport Canada

Geographic location: Bell Island, Portugal Cove, Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Barrelman
    May 31, 2012 - 19:53

    First off: I'm a Newfounder as are my children. I had to pull up roots and leave the "island" to seek employment when my workplace down-sized.. I'd love to come back, but there is no reasonable hope for employment at a living wage with my vocational skills. Secondly: in my time living in Newfoundland I travelled widely around the island and Labrador which included using ferries to islands like Bell Island and Ramea, as well as to Labrador, plus coastal boats along the south coast of the island. Thirdly, I've visited, spent time in and met with people in once-thriving isolated or island communities around Newfoundland - such as Ramea, Grand Bruit and Great Harbour Deep, the latter two more recently relocated - where people had to accept it's time to leave. It happens when the cost of sustaining those communities no longer becomes worth it. So what make Bell Island so special? Since the iron ore mines closed it's been allowed to become an "island suburb" of St. John's with what's become a very expensive subsidized transit service so people on Bell Island (How many of them are native "islanders" anyway?) can commute daily to their jobs or shop at the malls. Here's a suggestion: How about the NL government's look at ferry rates on the Bell Island service in comparison to Marine Atlantic's on the Cabot Strait runs to Port aux Basques and Argentia, as well as on the Strait of Belle Isle service between St. Barbe and Blanc Sablon? A comparison with the rate schedule for the Bell Island ferry would likely be an eye opener for people who use those other services, both of which are subsidized by the Feds and people across Canada. But commuters on Bell Island blessed with a provincially-(over?)subsidized ferry run probably know that and may not be too pleased if it became public. And, let's not forget the added cost of icebreaking and sometimes even helicopter flights when the "tickle" is ice-jammed in winter. The offshore oil, like the fish, will be gone soon enough one day. Perhaps this is a good time for the province to start taking an objective look at what it can afford when that day comes. (Scrubbing the denominational school system in the late 90s was a good start.) Perhaps in future, it may be more economical for the province to operate the ferry service to Bell Island with only one vessel making less frequent crossings. In that event, people still commuting to and from St. John's will have to schedule their work and personal commitments (like the rest of us) to accomodate the level of service and get used to it.

  • islander person
    May 31, 2012 - 13:31

    So ironic that the three people where injured all have the same last name and are all related. $$$$$ for law suite. Just wait and see if I am wrong...... This accident could have been worse and worse it will get from the law suits.... safety was the main factor and that no major injuries were reported but let's see the outcome of this incident ..... I hope transport Canada and Minister Hedderson listen to the residents of Bell Island and implement mandatory drug and alcohol testing. I have read all the comments and quite a few people have made comments to the effect of drugs and alcohol. If you worked on a major site any where in canada and an accident occured drug screening would be the first test done. Forget about the the engine losing power the boats are old and it is bound to happen so let's get rid of the vessels and put the wheels in motion for a bridge. There is more to it than meets the eye on this one incident. Hope all the students are well and I hope parents are not out to teach their children how to file for law suits when they are actually feeling well. Not a good lesson .

    • Jodi
      June 01, 2012 - 16:21

      I am beyond disgusted with your ingnorant comment, and even though it is NONE of your buisness I can assure that while the last names are the same that is the only thing that is the same. My child was seen at the janeway because of a previous whiplash injury, not a pending lawsuit!!!

    • My island Home
      June 01, 2012 - 17:09

      Well said Jodi....it's wasn't right to through you into that category with the rest of them....shocking how a few bad apples ruin it for the bunch....don't worry about what people think, you are a good person and a great mom. People really need to get the facts straight before making assumptions about others.

    • cynthia
      June 01, 2012 - 19:29

      There are a lot of people in Newfoundland with the same last name and may be so called related. They does not mean that everyone with the last name has the same intentions. When a member of this immediate family goes to a physician/health centre it is to seek medical attention not for monetary gain.

  • Telegrump
    May 31, 2012 - 10:11

    Shouldn't there be back-up power available to avoid such incidents? This is a very serious incident in my point of view, and a full investigation (including drug and alchohol testing) should be carried out to determine if it was human error or mechanical/equipment failure that caused the accident.

  • BI
    May 31, 2012 - 09:09

    If Barrelman isn't from the island, then his comments are not warranted. Maybe he is on EI or Social Assistance and should get a job. These people have lived there all their lives, and should be able to stay. I would like to know if all the people were upstairs or coming down when the boat hit. People on the boat always come down to the vehicles before they are allowed. If they were still upstairs sitting in the lounge, then there should have been no injuries. They do need new boats - or a bridge. Why give all the money to the 'poor' fisherment - this place is viable and should be treated as such.

    • Chantal
      May 31, 2012 - 10:03

      Granted, Barrelman's comments are inane and Brad's response is right on. That being said, what difference does it make whethr he is from the mainland, on EI or social assistance? Maybe Brad is getting social assistance -- so what? Maybe I am. Many ignorant comments here are from self-rightous (mostly anti-union) employed people attacking the unempolyed (and fishermen, come to think of it.) My point is that ia stupid comment is a stupid comment.

      May 31, 2012 - 10:25

      "If private enterprise wants to construct a building, for instance, on LeMarchant Road that is the height of the CN Tower, it should be automatically approved." So you're suggesting that private business be allowed to build without regard to the effects their buildings would have on the local traffic patterns, fire regulations, environmental impacts, community input, etc. Somehow the existing water mains, sewers, hydro and other utilities would magically adjust themselves to the new demand) Our elected counsellors should stand back and let the city develop as per the demands of the business elite. Would I be correct in assuming that you are not a civil engineer?

  • Barrelman
    May 31, 2012 - 08:40

    Replacing the Bell Island ferries isn't the answer. Relocating people from the island is. Short term pain (and expense) for long term gain.

    • Brad
      May 31, 2012 - 09:13

      So by your logic then, let's relocate all residents of NL to Nova Scotia seeing how Marine Atlantic's ferries can be unreliable? That's what I thought...

  • Islander person
    May 31, 2012 - 07:13

    I bet a few did go to the hosptial to complain to file a injury law suite. The same people always looking to gain a few dollars whatever way they can.... I bet if they were checked out it would show that down to their mother, father, and sisters have filed injury suites previously a bunch of crooks. The main the issue that day was safety as it could have been a lot more serious than it was and not to see what gains one can get from this incident. It made me sick when I watched the news last night and right away first thing I heard oh he injured his neck . glad to hear no one was seriously injured but please do not use this to ones advantage .... it will only come back to bite you in the end ...

    May 31, 2012 - 06:34

    Hi I like to know if alcohol was involved. If this was someone who did something stupid with their road vehicle they would get a breathalizer or a blood test for alcohol. Can we always blame it on the boats?