West Vancouver doctor sues ferries over crash

Family physician claims 2010 head injury caused loss of income

A West Vancouver doctor is suing B.C. Ferries for injuries she says she suffered when the Queen of Nanaimo slammed into the dock at Mayne Island two years ago.

Zdenka Sperling, a physician from the North Shore, said in the lawsuit she suffered serious head injuries in the accident when the crash threw her suddenly out of a chair and into a pole.

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Sperling said in the lawsuit the injuries have caused permanent disabilities including pain, loss of memory and concentration, depression, headaches and sleep disturbance.

She now needs help to manage her affairs, has had to receive nursing care from family members and has suffered a loss of income, she says.

Prior to 2008, Sperling was in family practice in West Vancouver, earning between $150,000 and $180,000 a year from the province in MSP billings.

Sperling and her husband, Dr. Michael McBryde, were on an early-morning ferry run from Pender Island to Vancouver on the morning of Aug. 3, 2010 when the Queen of Nanaimo lost power just before a stop at Mayne Island, crashing into the dock.

Six of the 207 people aboard the ferry were injured in the crash, including four passengers and two crew members.

The ferry and dock were also damaged.

The accident was reportedly caused when the ferry ran over a commercial crab trap, causing a buoy and the 15-metre-long line attached to it to get tangled around the ship's propeller.

That led to vibrations that may have caused two six-inch steel dowels to fall out of an oil distribution box, B.C. Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall said at the time of the accident. That in turn triggered a mechanical failure that made it impossible for the captain of the ferry to put the ship into reverse, and the ferry slammed into the dock.

In the lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court, Sperling blamed B.C. Ferries and its subcontractors for the accident, saying the Crown corporation was negligent for failing to keep the ferry in "seaworthy condition" and allowing it to operate in a "dangerous and/or defective condition" during the voyage.

In particular, the ferry corporation allowed "the wrong tapered dowels, without securing nuts, to be installed in the port side oil distribution box," according to the lawsuit.

The ferry crew also failed to recognize the malfunction in time, didn't have alternative procedures in place to slow the ferry, and didn't drop the anchor in time, Sperling has claimed.

The captain of the ferry, and Prime Move Controls Inc. in North Vancouver - a company that did contract work on the vessel - are also named in the lawsuit, along with an unnamed second contractor and employee.

The Mayne Island crash isn't the only accident in which pins in key parts of the ship's mechanical system have come loose. In 2005, the Queen of Oak Bay slammed into docks in Horseshoe Bay after losing power when a crucial cotter pin went missing. A report released by the Transportation Safety Board two years later blamed B.C. Ferries for inadequate supervision of many "safety-critical maintenance tasks."


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