HolyCoast: Minivan Bumped Off the End of the Balboa Ferry

Friday, January 13, 2012

Minivan Bumped Off the End of the Balboa Ferry

My wife and I walk around Balboa Island all the time and often ride the ferry over to the peninsula.  This morning some tourists got more of an adventure than they had planned:
A collision on board the Balboa Island Ferry shoved a minivan into the water on Friday morning, starting the clock on a rescue of two young children and their parents as the vehicle went under.

Witnesses said the family – visiting from Taiwan -- had only a few minutes to escape before the van sank in about 15 feet of water. A ferry worker jumped into the water and swam to help as two boaters pulled alongside the sinking van and helped the family out.

"Please get out my girl," the father told boater Skip Staats as he guided his small dinghy alongside the van. Staats said he reached into the van's rear window and unbuckled the girl from her car seat.

A young boy then clambered over the seat and climbed into his dinghy. The father pulled himself feet first through the driver's side window as another boater pulled alongside the passenger side.

That boater, James Donoghue, helped the mother get out about 20 seconds before the van went under. He asked if she was ok. "She said yes," he said, "and then she looked me square in the eye and said, 'But that was a rental car.'"

Witnesses said a black Mercedes accelerated as it boarded the ferry, ramming the minivan and driving it through a metal safety arm and into the water. The driver of the Mercedes told investigators the accelerator stuck, said Jennifer Schulz, a spokeswoman for the Newport Beach Fire Department.

The Mercedes was left teetering from the front of the ferry but was later pulled back. The minivan floated upright for a few minutes before it nosed down and sank, witnesses said. Ferry workers threw life vests to the family, and one jumped into the water, swam to the van and helped guide the family out.

"It floated just long enough to get them out," Staats said. "They didn't even get wet."
That's very scary. Fortunately, lots of help was nearby and the Balboa Island fire station is just a few blocks away, so I'm sure Engine 64 was there in no time.

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