Inquiry after Gozo ferry ramp rises with cars on it
Updated 2 p.m. - Gozo Channel said this afternoon that it would hold an internal inquiry after what it described as 'an unfortunate incident' late last night when the front end of a Gozo ferry ramp lifted while cars were being driven off last night.
The incident happened at 10.45 p.m. at Mgarr. No one was injured but three cars were damaged and two people appeared to suffer shock.
Gozo Channel in its statement apologised for the incident and the inconvenience it caused.
It confirmed that a mooring rope had broken, causing the vessel to move backward. The crew had taken immediate action to ensure passengers' safety.
This was how one of several readers who contacted timesofmalta.com described the scene:
"I was outside my car, waiting to board - the first few cars had already been driven off the ferry when noises of clanging metal and screams were heard and people ran to the scene.
"We saw two cars that had been jacked up by the final section of the ramp, which had folded back up to a vertical position. There was quite a lot of panic as the passengers had to be pulled out from the vehicles.
"I could not see what caused the accident in the first place but the crew asked passengers to stay away while the final section of the ramp was lowered to the normal position, scraping the underside of the the two cars before they fell back to a horizontal position.
"The ship was then moved a metre or so forward, and crew on the starboard side secured the mooring ropes at the front. One of the two cars was driven off the ship while the other had to be pushed. A third car suffered minor damage to its bonnet, probably from one of the cars jacked up by the ramp.
"Once these cars were moved out of the way, the rest of the cars on the MV Malita disembarked. It appears that no one was injured, but two persons, who were on the two cars directly hit (there were other persons at least on one of the cars) were suffering from heavy shock."
The reader said that some 15 minutes after the accident, one of the waiting passengers called 112, who were unaware of the accident. A lone policeman eventually appeared and tried to downplay the seriousness of the accident.
The reader said it was not clear who was in charge at the time - no one took clear responsibility to deal with the situation. Eventually, the crew started embarkation procedures for the return trip (operated by the same MV Malita, which left some 10 minutes late). At that point, one of the persons who had suffered from shock had been collected by family members, but the other person was still at the scene, and still traumatised by the event.
There was no official communication by the crew to the passengers and it was not at all clear how it was concluded that it was safe to use the same ramp to disembark the other cars or embark the cars on the return trip, the reader said.
Another incident involving the same ship occured on June 14. The Times had reported how the ferry ramp had been raised while people were still on it.
After that (June) incident Gozo Channel had said that from its initial enquiries it appeared that some passengers attempted to stop the MV Malita from departing by getting on the ramp just as it started being raised, apparently in order to delay the trip so that other passengers could board.