SSA commuter: ‘My car was blown up’

Authority officials say they’re working with car owners.

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The burned remains of Derrell Elliott's car at the Palmer Ave. lot in Falmouth. - Photo courtesy Derrell Elliott

Updated July 14

Derrell Elliott was returning on a freight ferry Saturday, July 7, after working his construction job on Martha’s Vineyard, when he heard the news that there had been a bus fire, and cars had been destroyed, as well.

He didn’t think much of it until he got off the shuttle bus in the Palmer lot and saw his 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander with yellow caution tape around it.

“That’s where my car was, torched,” he said. “It didn’t even have 50,000 miles on it.”

Inside were three fishing poles, including his $150 rod, and gone was the prayer card he carried around for his late brother. He lost some shoes in the blaze, too.

Now he’s worried that he’s not going to have any transportation to get from Middleboro to the ferry so he can get to his Island job. For now, the SSA is providing him with a rental car.

“I’m making payments on a vehicle,” Elliott said. “Now when my insurance company pays it off, I’m not going to have a vehicle. They blew up my car. How is that right?”

The Steamship Authority continues to work with customers whose cars were collateral damage in the dramatic fire in the Palmer Avenue lot in Falmouth, general manager Robert Davis told The Times.

Social media posts and speculation that the SSA is absolving itself from liability in the incident are inaccurate, Davis said.

But Elliott tells a different story about his interaction with the SSA’s insurance company. The company representative pointed to the back of the ticket, which indicates the SSA is only liable if there is “negligence of the authority or its employees.”

Elliott says pulling a bus that’s been described as having smoke coming from it into a crowded parking lot is his definition of negligence. The fact that the driver didn’t try to use a fire extinguisher before the blaze got out of control is also an issue, he said.

“They admitted their guilt by providing rental cars,” he said.

In an email, SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll wrote that the parking ticket language that the authority’s insurance company referenced in an initial conversation with Elliott was outdated. “We have provided our insurance carrier with the updated ticket language,” Driscoll wrote. “We have also spoken with Mr. Elliott on several occasions to assist him with the claims process. He continues to rent a car while looking for a replacement vehicle. We intend to continue to assist all of our customers that were affected by the fires as best as we can.”

The ferry service has reached out to everyone whose car was identified by the Falmouth Fire Department as being damaged in the fire, Davis said. The SSA is still working with its insurance providers to determine whether it will be under the auto or lot insurance, Davis said.

What may be confusing matters is that the Steamship Authority is telling the car owners they may be able to expedite matters by going through their own insurance companies with a claim and then have the insurance company work with the SSA insurance company to subrogate that claim.

“They might be able to adjust it quicker,” Davis said.

SSA has rented a dozen cars for those affected, and has reached out to all of them. The authority’s incoming general counsel, Terence Kenneally, is handling the discussions with affected car owners, Davis said.

Updated to include a statement from SSA. -Ed.