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Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. 1:10 p.m.
By Connie Leinbach
Ocracoke islander Beth O’Neill was checking her mobile phone Saturday night while in her car on the 8 p.m. Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry run when she felt a crash and heard fiberglass shattering.
A sport fishing boat, Reel Deal, had collided around 8:30 p.m. (Dec. 31) with the ferry Stanford White in the Barney Slough area of the Hatteras Inlet, according to a press release today from the NC DOT Ferry Division.
“I could feel the hit,” O’Neill said today. “It was different from running aground.”
The ferry crew ran to the front of the ferry to see what happened.
O’Neill and the other passengers from several other cars, which all were OK, also got out of their cars to see what had happened.
“I saw a gaping hole in its right side and I could see inside,” she said.
The ferry crew threw the life ring and sounded the man-overboard alarm, she said.
“People were taking pictures and talking,” she said. “The captain told us to go back to the cars and away from the front.”
She saw fiberglass on the front of the ferry, and the metal pole that holds the net across the front was bent.
“A family from New Bern in the car in front of us had five children who were shaken and crying,” she said. “I talked to them and told the kids that this never happens. I told them it’s OK; we’re all safe.”
Then the crew came around to check as to who needed to get where, she said.
The Coast Guard arrived and boarded the fishing vessel but not the ferry, O’Neill said.
No injuries on either vessel were reported, and the ferry was not damaged, the press release said, adding that the ferry Stanford White returned to Hatteras under its own power, while the Reel Deal was towed to a marina in Buxton.
“The ferry left the scene around 9:40 and took us back to Hatteras,” O’Neill said.
She and her party debarked the White and drove right onto the Lupton at 10:15 and returned to Ocracoke in time to ring in the new year.
The Coast Guard is conducting an investigation, NC DOT’s release said.
The channel has been unsatisfactory and a danger to navigation for several years now. You combine that with strong winds, currents, and all types of vessels operating in close proximity to one another, and a marine mishap is inevitable. The ferry captains and mates do indeed do an extraordinary job at the helm, as do the charter captains and commercial fisherman. The problem is the channel. Not those trying to navigate this watery maze. Thankfully, no one was killed or seriously hurt.
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