Coast Guard investigates S.F. ferry crash

The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating the cause of a weekend ferry crash that injured nine people at Pier 43.

A Baylink ferry, which was taking 143 passengers from San Francisco to Vallejo on Saturday, left Pier 41 just after 4:20 p.m. and struck Pier 43 a few minutes later. Three Coast Guard investigators responded to the scene, including one who studied the 110-foot-long vessel’s structure and engine room, according to Coast Guard Lt. John Fu.

The damaged ferry will be out of service until the Coast Guard can approve its repairs, reducing Baylink’s fleet to two ferries. Some passengers riding the ferry Monday will be routed to a bus instead, according to Carolyn Horgan, vice president of operations for the Blue and Gold Fleet, which operates boats for Baylink.

All of the injured passengers have been released from the hospital. “Those we talked to said it was like being in a car accident — they reported whiplash, that kind of thing,” Horgan said.

The captain, Phil Strickland, “lost his steering” shortly before the accident, according to Horgan. The Coast Guard investigation will determine whether human error, mechanical failure, or both, led to the crash.

Strickland has not been suspended. As part of standard procedure, drug and alcohol tests were performed, but those results will not be available for a few days, Fu said.

Some diners at the Franciscan Crab Restaurant, at Pier 43 ½, reported feeling the boat hit the neighboring pier Saturday, according to Craig Woods, the restaurant’s general manager.

“We could see it from the balcony,” Woods said. “It took a chunk out of the pier. I don’t know how he got off course.”</p>

There hasn’t been another ferry accident in the San Francisco Bay in recent memory, Fu said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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