BREMERTON — A Bremerton-Seattle ferry packed with pregame Seahawks fans Friday was mistakenly overloaded by more than 480 passengers and had to turn back to the terminal after the captain realized the error, Washington State Ferries spokeswoman Marta Coursey said.
But that was just the start of the problem for those aboard the 4:20 p.m. sailing of the ferry Cathlamet.
When the captain asked volunteers to get off the ferry and not enough did, Washington State Patrol troopers boarded and began ordering passengers to get off the boat, passengers said.
Chaz Forsberg, 27, of Silverdale, told the Kitsap Sun that he was in the Cathlamet’s men’s room when a trooper told him he had to return to the terminal.
“He said if I had a problem with it, I should send a complaint to the ferry system,” Forsberg said, according to the newspaper.
Coursey admitted, “They had angry and upset customers.”
How did the overloading happen in the first place?
Coursey said her understanding was that the ferry staff thought the Cathlamet had the capability for 1,600 passengers but its capacity is actually 1,200 passengers. After the captain began the crossing, he got the passenger number of 1,684 and had to turn around.
Normally, Coursey said, the captain gets that number prior to sailing and said she wasn’t sure why the captain didn’t get it sooner.
He turned back and off-loaded 484 passengers, she said.
She said all of the passengers who volunteered or were forced off were able to get onto the next ferry sailing around 5:30 p.m. Passengers got free travel vouchers and, ultimately, they got to their destination, she said.
But many were not happy about it.
State Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson issued an apology Friday night for the incident.
“I apologize to all ferry passengers impacted by the overloading of the Cathlamet late this afternoon,” Peterson said in a statement.
“Due to the safety concerns related to the overloading of the Cathlamet, a thorough review of this incident will take place and everyone in the chain of command at Washington State Ferries responsible for this oversight will be held accountable accordingly.
“As Secretary, the safety of the traveling public on our ferries, highways, and railways, is my top priority. I am pleased the crew took corrective action and all passengers made it across Puget Sound. The passengers, who disembarked the Cathlamet for the next sailing, received a voucher,” she said.
For hours, Washington State Ferries made no mention of the overloading on the 4:20 p.m. run and tweeted that the sailing was delayed 40 minutes because of “heavy traffic.” It made no mention of the passenger count being the problem.