Updated Dec. 2
A Philadelphia couple and their dogs were left dangling over a gap between a ferry and a transfer bridge at the Steamship Authority’s Vineyard Haven terminal on Saturday morning.
The Island Home, the SSA’s largest ferry, pulled from Slip 2 as the couple’s minivan, a Chrysler Pacifica hybrid, was coming aboard the vessel. SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll hasn’t provided an explanation for why the Island Home pulled away, but acknowledged the incident.
The bridge suffered a snapped cable Friday night, for reasons that aren’t clear. When asked if the SSA allowed vehicles to load the next day across a bridge with a broken cable, Driscoll said “certain measures” were taken, but essentially, yes, vehicles were permitted to cross a broken bridge. In an email to The Times, no mention was made of the cable.
“During the loading of the 9:30 am departure of the MV Island Home on Saturday, Nov. 27, the vessel unexpectedly pulled slightly away from the Slip 2 transfer bridge in Vineyard Haven as the MV Katama was docking in Slip 1, the northern slip at the terminal,” Driscoll wrote. “A passenger vehicle was in the process of driving on board the MV Island Home at the time. The vessel’s crew immediately took action and moved other vehicles off the transfer bridge while the vessel was repositioned. Approximately 3 minutes later, the vehicle was then able to safely board the vessel, and the rest of the loading continued without incident. The Steamship Authority takes the safety of its passengers and crew extremely seriously, and is conducting a thorough review of the incident. No injuries or damage were reported.”
Jim and Marie Logue were leaving for home at the close of their annual Thanksgiving on the Vineyard. Marie Logue said she and her husband were driving onto the ferry, and had to stop at the top of the transfer bridge as vehicles ahead were getting directed to park. When her husband tried to pull forward after stopping, the back wheels began to spin on the bridge. One of the deckhands said, “Don’t move!” she told The Times.
“As the front part of our car got on the ferryboat, there was a sort of a banging noise — not sure what it was,” Jim Logue said. “I couldn’t back the car up, nor could I go forward.”
“We really didn’t have an idea of what was going on,” Marie said. “And then they started in what I would describe as full emergency mode. A whole bunch of them showed up and they were screaming to get the cars backed up on the ramp … in the meantime telling us, Don’t move. And then I looked out my window and I could see water underneath the car.”
Marie said a crewmember told her everything was going to be OK. She recalls somebody else saying a cable had snapped. Jim said he overheard that the same cable that broke the night before had “come undone.”
While the minivan was suspended over the gap, Marie said she figured if the vehicle fell into the harbor, she and her husband could escape, but she wasn’t so sure about their two dogs.
“Once they got the cars off the ramp, you could feel the ramp rising,” Marie said. Jim said this helped to level off the minivan.
Somebody went up into the ferry, Marie said, and got ahold of the captain, and the captain brought the ferry back against the bridge and closed the gap.
“And then we drove on,” Marie said. Later as they were departing the ferry in Woods Hole, a deckhand said to Marie and Jim, “Hey, you should buy a lottery ticket …”
“I have to say, they handled the situation very well,” Marie said. “They were sharp. They seemed to know what they were doing. It didn’t seem like this was the first time.”
Marie said she reached out to the SSA via email on Sunday morning: “I haven’t heard a thing. Our car wasn’t damaged, but I just would like somebody to say, We’re sorry that happened. It was terrifying.”
Marie also said nobody on scene explained what happened.
On Thursday, a day after she was originally interviewed by The Times, Marie said SSA Port Captain Charles Monteiro reached out by phone.
“He was quite nice and quite apologetic,” she said.
“All of them were beyond excellent,” Jim said of the crew’s response to the emergency.
Asked if it was a scary experience, Jim said, “Like anything of that nature, your adrenaline is going a little bit.”
Jim described the event as unprecedented in his personal experience. “I’ve been coming to Martha’s Vineyard since June of 1957,” Jim said. “Every single year of my life, more than once a year in most of those years.” In that time, Jim said, “nothing like that has ever happened.”
On Friday, Nov. 26, a cable supporting the transfer bridge at the Steamship Authority’s Vineyard Haven terminal snapped. The incident occurred in or around the last run of the night Friday, terminal agent Leigh Cormie said. At 9:45 am Saturday, a two-person SSA team was at work on the bridge. Cormie said at that time the repair was moments away from completion. “There were no delays or cancellations,” SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll previously told The Times. Driscoll later said the bridge went back into service before noon on Saturday. When The Times inquired about the cable over the weekend, the SSA never mentioned anything about the minivan incident. Only when the couple reached out to the newspaper did the incident come to light. In May 2020, a cable at the same transfer bridge snapped and sent a 20,000-pound block of counterweights into Vineyard Haven Harbor. That incident pinned the ferry Martha’s Vineyard under the bridge.
The SSA has been guarded about video footage of that incident, repeatedly refusing to release the footage to The Times. The SSA has claimed the footage is exempt from disclosure under the state’s public records law.
Updated with an additional comment about an SSA apology.