Cause of Ferry Injuries Under Investigation
Four passengers aboard a Shepler’s ferry from Mackinaw City were injured Friday, May 13, in heavy seas. The U.S. Coast Guard reported the accident aboard the 83-foot Wyandot and said three of the passengers were taken to the Mackinac Island Medical Center and the fourth was treated and released at the Mackinac Island dock.
Seas were rough Friday, with east winds blowing into the Mackinac Island harbor and large swells building just outside the west breakwall throughout the afternoon. The accident occurred between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. during the boat’s run from Mackinaw City to Mackinac Island, according to the Coast Guard. The Mackinac Island ambulance was dispatched at about 4 p.m.
Wind recordings at the center span of the Mackinac Bridge, 200 feet above the water, recorded gusts up to 47 miles per hour from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., dropping to gusts reaching 25 miles per hour from 4 p.m. to midnight.
Petty Officer Jim Renkes of Coast Guard Station St. Ignace said waves were subsiding but still three to five feet high in Round Island passage at 10:30 p.m., when he was making a medical evacuation from the Island in an unrelated incident. He was forced to cut his speed 10 knots, he said.
He calls the passage an area of confused seas, caused by the waves bouncing between Mackinac and Round Island, the narrow cut, and the dynamics of the wind. He has seen waves there eight to 10 feet high.
Mackinac Island Medical Center would not say what happened to the patients, and Shepler’s declined comment on the incident. The Coast Guard in Sault Ste. Marie, which issued the original release of the accident and is investigating its cause, said no additional information was available Tuesday, May 17.
While responding to the accident, a “pretty minor incident” occurred between a Mackinac Island ambulance and a Mackinac Island fire truck, according to Fire Chief Dennis Bradley. When maneuvering around the parked ambulance, which had one of its doors open, one of the fire truck’s utility doors hit the open door of the ambulance, causing minor damage to the door of the fire truck.