BELLINGHAM - An Alaska ferry worker was injured Friday, Nov. 2, after a support cable snapped on the passenger loading ramp she was standing on at Bellingham Cruise Terminal, in Fairhaven.
The Alaska Marine Highway ferry ramp operator, who was not identified, was standing near the edge of the passenger ramp at 3:20 p.m., lowering it into place on the stern of the ship, witnesses said. Just as it got parallel with the ground, a cable snapped - it wasn't clear why - and the ramp collapsed. Some wooden pilings kept it from falling further. The woman fell a distance of about 20 feet, landing on the damaged ramp.
"I thought it was a freaking earthquake," said TJ Tjomsland, of Sitka, Alaska, who was waiting to board the ferry. "The speculation is she had a head injury."
Other witnesses said she seemed to have hurt her back. Port officials didn't know how she landed. Workers rushed to her and called an ambulance. She was taken to St. Joseph hospital. No update on her condition was available Friday evening.
The M/V Columbia, a 418-foot vessel, was scheduled to leave the terminal, 355 Harris Ave., at 6 p.m., but was delayed.
Ryan Hardy, who had a ticket for the Alaskan coast, saw the incident from the terminal.
"She started to move (the ramp) and I could hear something pop," he said. "It shook, and then there was another pop."
Then she fell, as the ramp buckled about two dozen feet from the edge of the boat.
No foot passengers were boarding the ferry at the time of the accident. A few had already driven vehicles onboard.
Foot passengers had to board through the vehicle loading area, because the ramp was "completely broken," said Port of Bellingham spokeswoman Carolyn Casey.
The ramp is owned by the port.
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