Ferry workers trained in July to save overboard passengers

By Dan Parsons, Daily Press, Newport News, Va.

Feb. 19–The crew members who launched a rescue effort when a man jumped from the ferry Pocahontas on Monday had last trained for such an event more than six months prior, said Virginia Department of Transportation officials.

“In addition to the annual and semi-annual Coast Guard inspections, which include training drills, one of which is a ‘man overboard’ drill, all crews attend annual scheduled training days,” said Lauren Hansen, a VDOT spokeswoman.

The last training session attended by Jamestown-Scotland Ferry workers was July 2009, Hansen said. New crew members are also required to pass a fire drill and rescue boat drill.

Around 2:30 p.m. Monday, as the Pocahontas neared the middle of the James River on its way from Surry County to Jamestown, Daniel Bartley, an 84-year-old Williamsburg resident, climbed over the vessel’s railing and leaped into the frigid water.

By the time the ferry circled around, a small rescue johnboat was launched and Bartley was pulled from the water, 15 minutes had passed, according to James City police, which is heading the investigation. Though the crew members tried to resuscitate Bartley, they were unsuccessful.

“Coast Guard certified employees have certifications based on their licensure,” said Nora Jump-Scott, another VDOT spokeswoman. “Dock hands who do not have Coast Guard certifications are not required to know CPR as a condition of their employment, however, we offer the CPR training as soon as possible after their employ.”

The certification level of the two crew members who launched the rescue attempt was not known.

In the wake of the incident, some ferry passengers told the Daily Press of their concerns that the rescue boat was in less than optimal shape and that crew members had trouble launching it and getting the small outboard engine started.

Hansen said the rescue boat aboard all VDOT ferries must pass a rigorous series of tests, including a drop test from 10 feet, a stability and freeboard test by staying afloat with 350 pounds inside, a rescue boarding test and a rowing test.

The Pocahontas was approved by the Coast Guard Tuesday to resume operations, which included an inspection of the rescue boat.

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