Vehicle launches off ramp into ocean at Gabriola ferry terminal

Police, rescue crews looking for possible survivors after early morning incident

Gabriola RCMP continue to investigate why a vehicle sped through closed gates at B.C. Ferries’ Descanso Bay terminal on Gabriola Island, launched off a raised ferry access ramp, landed on the deck of the docked MV Quinsam and continued until it plunged into the ocean early Wednesday morning.

Gabriola RCMP received 911 calls just after 3:45 a.m. and were on scene within a few minutes, but there was no sign of the vehicle or anybody that may have been in it. Police immediately made requests for Canadian Coast Guard and Nanaimo Harbour Patrol assistance. A coast guard hovercraft arrived on the scene at 4:54 a.m., according to an RCMP press release.

The vehicle is believed to be immersed in about 165 feet of water, too deep for RCMP divers, so navy divers were called for assistance.

As of press time Wednesday afternoon, divers had yet to locate the vehicle, its driver, or any potential occupants.

A barrier at the terminal was destroyed and MV Quinsam sustained minor damage but is operational. It remains tied at its berth for the duration of the police investigation, according to a B.C. Ferries official.

B.C. Ferries provided foot passengers with a water taxi to transport them between Gabriola Island and the Nanaimo Harbour, and vehicle traffic has been halted during the investigation.

A similar incident took place in May 2011 at B.C. Ferries Swartz Bay terminal when an agitated customer suddenly accelerated his vehicle to 80 km/h from his place in line, charged at the barriers blocking Berth 1, and plunged into 10-metre deep water.

Divers recovered both the driver’s body and vehicle.