A departing B.C. Ferries vessel had to be turned around Sunday morning, after a woman left her five-month-old infant with a stranger on board so she could retrieve something onshore, and the ship sailed without her. The incident caused delays for all remaining sailings that day.
Ferries’ spokeswoman Deborah Marshall confirmed that a woman and her child boarded Queen of Cowichan for an 8:30 a.m. sailing out of Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, after leaving a couple of coolers in the onshore luggage rack.
The coolers weren’t permitted, so the woman was paged on board, Marshall said. “She left her baby with a lady she had met in the waiting room, went off the vessel to go collect her coolers, and in the meantime, the vessel had been cleared for sailing.
“Our crew didn’t realize she had a baby on board, so obviously she was quite upset about the situation once she realized the ship had left,” Marshall said. “So when we had the communication between the ship and shore, the captain decided to bring the vessel back to Horseshoe Bay and pick her up.”
Marshall said it took several minutes for the situation to come to Ferries staff members’ attention. The whole incident caused an hour’s delay.
B.C. Ferries will, on occasion, turn a vessel around. The most common reason is a medical emergency, when it’s closer to bring a ship back into port so a passenger can get medical help, rather than continue the voyage to the other side.
However, Marshall added, given that B.C. Ferries has an average of 500 sailings a day, it’s extremely rare to turn a ship around and return to port.
“This was quite an unusual [Sunday]. I can’t say I’ve ever heard of it.
“Leaving a five-month-old in somebody else’s hands is, how can I put this? It’s not advisable.”
Marshall said B.C. Ferries is looking into how it handled internal communications in the situation, including why staff members didn’t know the woman was leaving a baby on board and if there was enough time for her to return ashore to collect her belongings.
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