Woman in wheelchair gets left on ferry

Boat had to turn around halfway back to Island.

Oops, a woman in a wheelchair got left on the Island Home ferry Tuesday. The ferry had to turn around so she could make an off-Island doctor's appointment. — File photo by Tim Johnson

A woman in a wheelchair traveling from Vineyard Haven to Woods Hole was left on board the Island Home Tuesday, forcing the ferry to turn around after making it halfway back to the Island, Wayne Lamson, general manager of the Steamship Authority, said.

“We’re still investigating the whole thing, and what lessons can be learned,” Mr. Lamson told The Times.

A Times employee who was aboard the ferry said the ferry was closer to two-thirds of the way to Vineyard Haven when a crew member announced they were turning back. “When we arrived back in Woods Hole, we were there less than a minute, then we headed back to Vineyard Haven again,” he said.

The woman was helped onto the boat by two passengers in Vineyard Haven for the 9:30 am voyage, Mr. Lamson said. It’s unclear whether they knew the woman, but ferry staff was never alerted that a passenger might need assistance getting off the boat in Woods Hole, he said.

During a sweep of the ferry before passengers were let on in Woods Hole, the woman was missed, Mr. Lamson said. “They’re supposed to check,” he said. “We’ve addressed it with the crew.”

Typical protocol for a passenger needing assistance is for crew to be alerted at the terminal, Mr. Lamson said. That didn’t happen in this case, he said.

The Times employee mentioned when the ferry finally arrived in Vineyard Haven, the cars on the freight deck were facing the wrong way to unload.

On recent trips, Times employees have seen people run back onto ships to retrieve jackets, backpacks, and in one odd case, a purser was holding a wig he’d found in a seat on the ferry.


Ticket changes coming

Later this week, SSA will introduce a new ticket system for commuters who use the monthly 46-ticket booklets for ferries to and from Martha’s Vineyard. The authority will go to a card system that can be scanned as commuters get onto the ferries, Mr. Lamson said: “You only have to put it in the vicinity of the reader.”

The cards go on sale Wednesday, and they’ll start using them Thursday, he said. “Commuters are a good group to test them with,” he said. “They’re good about giving feedback.”

The ferry service has already been using its new scanners at the entrance to the ferries for one-day tickets, Mr. Lamson said.

Eventually, the SSA hopes to also allow passengers to load the cards through online payments. Single-ticket sales are also slated to be done online, with passengers having the capability of loading them on their smartphones, Mr. Lamson said.

“It’s a soft rollout,” he said of testing the system using commuter cards. Mr. Lamson said he expects to add other tickets in a few weeks.