Saturday, April 15th, 2023, was a long day for passengers on the Seattle-Bremerton Ferry as the vessel they were on, the MV Walla Walla, ran aground on a Bainbridge Island beach in Rich Passage.
The grounding of the Walla Walla was first reported around 4:40 PM. Ian Sterling, a spokesperson for Washington State Ferries, said a generator failure appears to be the cause of the incident. However, a formal investigation will be completed to determine the actual cause.
Due to the incident, the Walla Walla was taken out of service and will be inspected for any major damage. The smaller MV Issaquah ferry, with a capacity for 124 cars, will service the Seattle-Bremerton ferry route while the Walla Walla is being inspected.
There were 175 cars, 596 passengers, and 15 crew members aboard the vessel at the time of the incident, according to WSF and the United States Coast Guard. However, no injuries were reported.
Two ferries from Kitsap Transit, the Commander and the Waterman, were called in to evacuate passengers off the stranded vessel. It took about 90 minutes and multiple trips until both ferries were able to transport all passengers back to Bremerton.
Passengers traveling with cars were unable to pick them up until the following day, with some waiting up to 18 hours to retrieve them.
The Walla Walla is no stranger to running aground. The same vessel became stranded on a Bainbridge Island beach nearly 42 years ago to the day, back on April 22, 1981. During that incident, the vessel was stranded for approximately nine hours after running aground in dense fog.