Coast Guard investigating after ferry crashes into Ferry Building in San Francisco

ByKatie Utehs KGO logo
Saturday, November 24, 2018
VIDEO: Ferry crashes into dock at SF Ferry building
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Panic struck a crowd of onlookers as they watched a ferry crash into a dock at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. No one was injured but the boat was damaged.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Passengers aboard the Golden Gate Ferry that crashed into the San Francisco Ferry terminal Friday afternoon say they had no warning. The US Coast Guard is now investigating after the boat first hit the end of the dock near the ticketing booth, then crashed into the dock near Gate B. Witnesses caught the crash on camera.

The damaged ferry boat will have to be towed back to Larkspur and it'll likely happen Saturday. There are holes in the metal hull and it struck hard enough to break the concrete and metal railing on the dock.

People on the dock and aboard the boat could tell something was wrong based on how fast the ferry approached. Witnesses pulled out cell phones and recorded.

"The captain-- there was nothing over the intercom and you would think that they would have honked a horn or anything to give people a heads up," said Jack Wahl, ferry passenger.

Passengers on Golden Gate Ferry's MS San Francisco say they had no official warning of the impending crash.

"We were joking about we're going way too fast to be coming into this and immediately after we stopped joking about it we smashed into the first piling and we deflect into the actual port itself," said Gavin Martz, ferry passenger.

People eating at the San Francisco Ferry Building saw the boat coming their way around 2:30 in the afternoon.

"I did yell to my table, 'Oh my gosh, here comes a boat and he's coming in hot,'" said Kelly Schirber, a witness who dined at The Slanted Door.

"It was definitely very hectic there was quite a bit of yelling going on board," recalled Martz.

Some took out cameras as the ferry approached, others ran.

"I thought it was going to go straight into the restaurant so I started running the opposite direction," said Angelina Sivoia, who was dining with her mom Kelly Schirber.

The impact cracked the concrete, knocked over the railing, and shook The Slanted Door restaurant.

"The handrail looks like a simple piece of metal. It's actually a deceptively strong safeguard to make sure that if something like this were to happen there would be no further damage to people on land," said Priya Clemens, Golden Gate Ferry spokesperson.

US Coast Guard investigators will now look into the computer systems to determine how fast the boat was traveling and if the captain was in control.

"The captain said it was technical failure," said Wahl.

All five crew members will be drug tested and interviewed, which is policy according to Golden Gate Ferry. The Coast Guard will also review the boats maintenance records.

"The vessels are inspected frequently by the US Coast Guard so there is a lot of oversight," said Lt. Commander Matthew Zinn, US Coast Guard SF Investigating Officer.

The boat can carry some 750 passengers, but had a light load of 53 people Friday. Two people reported minor injuries. A concession worker had a bruised hip and a passenger complained of a sore back, but refused treatment. Ferry service was not delayed due to the crash. It will go on as scheduled, but without the MS San Francisco during the investigation and repairs.