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Thursday, June 30, 2005 - Page updated at 01:33 PM

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B.C. ferry runs aground in West Vancouver, hits marina and boats

The Associated Press

WEST VANCOUVER, British Columbia — A British Columbia ferry lost power, smashed into a number of boats and ran aground at a marina while docking today at Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver.

There were no immediate reports of injuries, B.C. Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall said.

Witnesses said at about 10 a.m., the 457-foot Queen of Oak Bay missed the terminal berth and was blowing its horn as it crashed into Sewell's Marina. The ferry, part of the province's extensive fleet of boats to connect Vancouver Island and other coastal areas to the mainland, was arriving from Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.

Passenger Myrtle Medd said an announcement was made telling those aboard to get into their cars and brace themselves as the vessel was about to crash.

"We glided in and we didn't feel a great impact but we did take out about seven sailboats," Medd told BCTV. "But nobody was injured on the sailboats and no one was injured on the ferry. But we're sitting in front of the little tourist bureau, not in the real dock."

She said ferry workers told passengers it would be hours before they would be able to get off the vessel. Passengers were not allowed to go on the outer deck or to their cars.

"We're all just upstairs getting free coffee and tea," Medd said.

The ferry plowed into two piers at the marina.

"There were sailboat masts that were disappearing under the bow," said passenger Shawn Atleo, who was on the bow of the ferry when it lost power.

"I saw at least two people literally running for their lives from the oncoming ship," Atleo said. "They obviously heard the horn and I could see the look of shock on the man's face as he looked up, saw what was coming."

Passenger Jonnie Tunnel from Nanaimo said passengers were warned the ferry was going to hit the dock.

"We heard them say, 'Brace for impact, brace for impact, everybody sit down, brace for impact' and then they said 'We've lost power, sit down, brace for impact' and then we heard them say 'Drop anchors, drop anchors,' and we just kind of drifted into the boat dock."

Gus Tsogaf, owner of the Bay Moorings Restaurant that overlooks the harbor, said the big ferry destroyed several boats before it stopped.

The accident occurred as many British Columbia residents were expected to flock to the ferries at the start of the long Canada Day weekend.

The Queen of Oak Bay returned to service on the run from West Vancouver to Nanaimo earlier this month after an extensive, $35 million upgrade. The ferry can carry 1,500 passengers and 362 cars.

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