Near-miss at busy ferry dock raises concerns

Islanders witnessed an accident at the north-end ferry dock last week that caused at least one of them to raise the alarm about pedestrian safety at the busy intersection.

Tom Hennessey said he was walking down the dock around 5 p.m. Tuesday, a busy time at the dock, when he saw two elementary school-age children standing at the end of the dock waiting to cross the four lanes of traffic toward La Playa Restaurant.

When cars in all of the lanes stopped, the children entered the crosswalk and began to walk across the dock. “They did everything right,” he said.

One driver exiting the ferry, however, apparently didn’t see the stopped car in front of him or her and hit it, sending both cars flying into the crosswalk. The two children were a few feet away, he said.

The near-miss and potential for catastrophe were frightening, Hennessey said. “I felt sick to my stomach.”

Debris from the accident flew, he said; a piece of the struck car hit a nearby vanpool van that had stopped for the children. Amazingly, however, the two children were not hit by anything and continued on their way.

In the days since, Hen-nessey said, he’s called the Washington State Ferries, and his wife, JoAnne Hennessey, talked to Ann Murray, who oversees school bus transportation on Vashon. Neither Hennessey could determine who the children were or why they were walking across the street without an adult.

Jodie Metzger, the principal of Chautauqua Elementary School, was alarmed when she learned of the incident but determined the children had not been dropped off by a school district bus.

“They weren’t kids with us,” she said. “We don’t leave children unattended.”

Even so, she, like the Hennesseys, is alarmed.

“I go to the ferry every day,” said Metzger, who lives in West Seattle. “It’s a dangerous spot if people aren’t making good choices.”

It turns out the crosswalk is under King County’s jurisdiction, not WSF’s. Paulette Norman, the engineer with the county’s roads division, said she looked into the incident after learning about it from a reporter, but she, too, was able to learn little. No police report was filed, she said.

Last year, she said, the county added fluorescent yellow-green signs alerting drivers that a crosswalk was ahead.

“We’ll take a look and see if there’s anything else we can do out there to remind people of the crosswalk,” she said.

Tom and JoAnne Hen-nessey said they’d like to see a pedestrian-activated sign that would flash when people were entering the crosswalk.

“It’s such a simple fix,” he said.

He decided to make some telephone calls and see if he could draw attention to the issue because of the near-catastrophe he witnessed.

“It’s just a disaster waiting to happen,” he said.


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