SEATTLE - An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined a ferry captain fell asleep before a vessel crashed into a dock in Seattle last year.
According to their findings, the captain was incapacitated as a result of a "microsleep"—dozing off for anywhere from seconds to a few minutes. Investigators found probable cause the captain fell asleep, and the quartermaster was not actively monitoring the approach to the ferry terminal before contact.
A separate investigation conducted by Washington State Ferries (WSF) reached nearly the same conclusion in March, determining the captain experienced a "loss of situational awareness" which led into the hard landing.
At the time, WSF said it could not conclude why the captain lost his situational awareness, as he refused to answer questions as advised by his attorney.
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The entire crew of the Cathlamet Ferry tested negative for drug and alcohol.
Only one minor injury was reported in the crash, but the ferry sustained an estimated $10 million in damages, as well as $300,000 worth of damage done to the offshore pylon.
The main lesson learned: NTSB says repetitive operations, like ferry trips back and forth on the same route, require a high level of vigilance to keep ferry operators from getting complacent and failing to take potential risks seriously.
Measures to prevent ferry operator fatigue are already in place, but were neglected.
The U.S. Coast Guard investigation is still ongoing.