The body of a 32-year-old Gabriola Island woman was recovered Thursday afternoon from a van submerged in about 35 metres of water off the island’s ferry terminal.
The woman was from Gabriola, her next of kin have been notified, and they’ve asked that her name be withheld, said Nanaimo RCMP Sgt. Sheryl Armstrong. The case has been turned over to the B.C. Coroners Service for investigation.
The vehicle was driven at high speed through a metal gate at the terminal about 3:45 a.m. Wednesday. It went over a raised ramp onto the ferry MV Quinsam, shot across its deck and into the waters of Descanso Bay. Video-camera footage from the terminal captured the incident.
Recovery efforts included the RCMP dive team and the RCMP patrol vessel Higgett. Searchers were able to enter the van and get to the body about 1 p.m.
The vehicle was retrieved later in the afternoon.
B.C. Ferries trips between Gabriola and Nanaimo were suspended for several hours Thursday and water taxi service offered during the search and recovery of the body and vehicle. Ferry service resumed at 2:30 p.m., said B.C. Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall
Marshall said B.C. Ferries will conduct a review. “We always have a post-incident review to see if there’s anything we can do better.”
Among the first responders to the incident were the Gabriola RCMP and the Nanaimo Harbour Patrol, along with the coast guard and local firefighters.
Gabriola, with a population of more than 4,000, is off the east side of Vancouver Island, about a 20-minute ferry trip from Nanaimo Harbour.
The Gabriola Island tragedy follows a similar event on May, 20, 2011, in which 29-year-old James Davies drove a pickup truck off a ramp at the Swartz Bay terminal. The coast guard recovered his body.
B.C. Ferries conducted an investigation at the time, and determined there was virtually nothing that could be done to stop someone intent on driving into the ocean.
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