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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, October 7, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesAs Many as Six Injured in Monday Night Ferry Crash

As Many as Six Injured in Monday Night Ferry Crash

The Royal Miss Belmar, precariously perched on the rocky shore of Great St. James. (Photo courtesy Friend of the Source)A Monday ferry excursion from St. Croix to St. John’s Festival ended with a bang when the Royal Miss Belmar hit the northeastern end of Great St. James Island as it was headed home after the fireworks. The accident happened around 10 p.m.

“We were booking at full speed and came to a crashing halt. It was like he didn’t even see it,” St. Croix resident Kevin Johnson, 25, said, of the captain.

The 89-foot ferry had 98 passengers and four crew members on board. Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad said five passengers, including a baby, were injured. St. John Rescue Chief Alfredo Alejo put the number of injured at six, including the baby. They were transferred to Roy Schneider Medical Center for treatment.

What caused the Royal Miss Belmar to run aground remains under investigation, Castrodad said.

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SeaTrans Managing Director Marjorie Smith said she had “no clue” what caused the accident.

“It was one of those freaky things,” Smith said.

The ferry—owned by Sea Trans, an affiliate of Smith’s Ferry—left St. Croix at 9:15 a.m. Monday and reportedly started its return journey right after the fireworks ended. The ferry’s normal route is between St. Croix and St. Thomas.

Castrodad and Smith said that so far, it does not appear that the vessel is leaking oil, gas or other contaminants, but Castrodad said the situation is being monitored. Additionally, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is evaluating any environmental damage.

St. John Rescue was first on the scene with its Marine 1 vessel, Alejo said.

“It was really rough out there,” he said of the sea conditions.

An aerial view of the wrecked ferry (Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard)Because the sea was so rough and the ferry was unstable, rescue vessels could not get close enough to the Royal Miss Belmar to transfer passengers.

Alejo said this meant that people had to disembark into the lifeboat tied to the vessel’s stern before being transferred to waiting vessels.

“People were panicking,” Alejo said.

In addition to St. John Rescue, V.I. National Park, SeaTow and private vessels responded to the accident, Alejo said.

Lloyd Morris, chief ranger at the park, said it sent one of its vessels to the scene.

According to Johnson, who works for Florida Welding on St. Croix, the aftermath was chaotic with the ferry crew unprepared to assist passengers. Johnson, who said he has first-responder training, found the appropriately sized life vests for the passengers, helped them into them and assisted them into the ferry’s lifeboat, where they were then transferred to waiting rescue vessels.

He said that those injured appeared to have neck and back problems, as well as cuts and bruises.

Alejo said he took the baby across the life raft and to Marine 1 to transport him to shore. He said the baby wasn’t responding properly after he hit the bench in front of him when the ferry ran aground. The baby was in his mother’s arms.

He said after telling the mother he had little ones of his own, she trusted him with the baby. Alejo said the mother went in the next boat to rejoin her baby.

All the passengers were offloaded by about 4 a.m. Sunday, Castrodad said.

Dr. Jeff Held, an obstetrician who works on St. Croix under a visiting doctor program, was also on the Royal Miss Belmar. He had nothing good to say about the ferry crew but had kudos for Johnson.

“He took charge,” Held said.

Castrodad said the vessel is hard aground, and discussions are under way with the owners on a plan to move it.

“It will be quite a project,” Castrodad said.

Smith agreed. She said the company is working on plans to get the vessel off the rocks but it probably won’t be this week.

“We’re moving as fast as humanly possible,” she said.

Smith said that while the Royal Miss Belmar is damaged, it can be repaired but she didn’t have an estimate of the cost.

Tourism Department spokesman Allegra Kean said the department picked up the tab at the Windward Passage hotel on St. Thomas for the stranded passengers. She did not have a dollar figure for the cost. She said the passengers then returned to St. Croix by ferry or by plane if they preferred not to go on a boat.

Shortly after the accident happened, an announcement was made in the St. John Festival Village asking for those with medical training to respond, but St. John Administrator Leona Smith said she’s not been able to find out who made the request. She said it did not shut down the village.

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