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WSF fined for ramp collapse

KINGSTON — Washington State Ferries did not have adequate procedures and emergency action plans in place, or ensure the structural integrity of the Kingston ferry dock components, according to a citation issued by the Department of Labor & Industries.

The citation, issued Dec. 11, is part of an investigation stemming from a June 9, 2001 incident when the transfer span at the Kingston dock collapsed, sending WSF worker Tim Seyl into the water.

The ferries system has been fined $3,500 for what investigators considered two “serious” violations, according to the L&I documents.

“... the transfer span collapsed due to lack of maintenance inspections of equipment, materials, and operating procedures,” according to the L&I report. Investigators found that WSF management apparently allowed the transfer span’s counter cables to go four years beyond their scheduled change. The problems cited by L&I had already been addressed by the time of the later inspection between June 12 and Nov. 15 of last year.

A spokesperson for the Department of Labor and Industries offices in Olympia said the fines are based on the severity of the infractions. The fines can be as much as $7,000 per incident depending on the number of people who are affected and other criteria.

Seyl, a Kingston ferry dock worker was injured from his plunge into Appletree Cove when the transfer span he was standing on fell into the water. A bystander pulled Seyl out of the water.

This was the first time in the Washington State Ferries history that a transfer span failed. A 13-year old cable supporting the counterweight system snapped, causing the ramp to break from its hinges. At the time of the incident WSF officials said the cables are inspected quarterly and greased every eight weeks.

The WSF had 15 days to appeal the citations, but as of press time no appeal had been filed, said Bill Ripple, LNI spokesperson.

Department of Transportation officials referred questions regarding the report to WSF safety personnel who then referred questions to their public information office.

According to Occupational Safety & Health Administration records, the ferries system has had 28 investigations conducted in the past 30 years. This Dec. 11 violation report is the first one issued for the Kingston dock. The majority of safety violations have occurred at the Seattle dock.

Calls to the WSF for comment were unreturned by press time.

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