(TOPLINE: Water Taxi evacuated 7:30 am after smoke led captain to return it to dock. Service resuming at 11:30 from Pier 50 with Melissa Ann)
(Added, photo by Christopher Boffoli for WSB – firefighters on board Rachel Marie)
FIRST REPORT, 7:38 AM: Just got an alert that the West Seattle Water Taxi is having mechanical trouble and has returned to Seacrest. Jana, who was on the sailing, tweeted that a “strong smell (was) emanating from the engine room.”
— Jana Uyeda (@jana_obscura) August 10, 2012
And now the Fire Department is headed there as a fire response. More to come.
(Photo by Christopher Boffoli for WSB)
7:45 AM UPDATE: About half the units have been canceled, as they have determined it’s not a major fire after all, but what’s there is still causing a traffic jam-up at Seacrest in addition to having interrupted Water Taxi service.
7:50 AM UPDATE: And yes, if you’ve heard a helicopter, it’s related – at least one media chopper was checking out the situation. Per scanner, we’re hearing that they have not found flames – just some “burned wires” so far. Updated a few minutes later – apparent “burned-out alternator.” A city fireboat is at Seacrest too – just added photo from WSB contributing photojournalist Christopher Boffoli.
8:05 AM UPDATE: Harbor Avenue remains blocked around Seacrest. Thanks to Toni for this overview:
No indication of injuries at this point. Update regarding service, from Christopher:
Rachel Marie captain Tara Rochester tells me that they had just departed Seacrest for downtown when the Rachel Marie started to fill with smoke. They returned to the dock. Everyone got off OK. One of the engines was on fire. Rochester says no replacement vessel available now but they’ll probably have something worked out for the afternoon.
8:20 AM UPDATE: April, who’s on board the 37 after having been evacuated from the Water Taxi when it returned, says she and others then had to wait to get through on Harbor. In comments, Paul says the road has just reopened, and WSB’s Patrick Sand at the scene has just confirmed that.
8:27 AM UPDATE: SFD spokesperson Kyle Moore has briefed the media at the scene. He says captain Rochester did all the right things in getting Rachel Marie back to the dock so everyone could get out safely. The fire was confined to the engine room. TRAFFIC UPDATE – Patrick reports that while traffic is being allowed to use Harbor going TOWARD the bridge, the westbound direction toward Seacrest is still blocked at Fairmount.
9:03 AM UPDATE: Harbor Avenue has reopened, according to police. Here’s our video of the briefing by SFD’s Moore:
Water Taxi management says via a text alert, “Plans for repairs and resuming service are under way.”
(Photo by Christopher Boffoli for WSB)
10:38 AM UPDATE: Forwarded by County Councilmember Joe McDermott, who chairs the board that oversees the King County Ferry District, including Water Taxi matters, an update from Paul Brodeur, county Marine Division director:
This morning’s incident on the RM was a failed alternation on the port generator.
This is a small (one gallon milk jug size) 12 volt electrical unit that charges the batteries which start the prime mover. Just to put it in perspective, your car has one of these alternators which also charges your cars battery. This failure caused smoke -NO FIRE – When the captain was notified of the smoke, she took appropriate action and the trained crew responded by securing fuel and air to the engineroom.She secured the vessel at the dock and the crew debarked the passengers with no injuries. The Us Coast Guard and the Seattle fire department responded and Seattle fire provided assistance.
The USCG is currently aboard and taking crew statements. We are awaiting their investigation and permission to move the vessel back to pier 50 at which time service can resume using the Melissa Ann.
11:14 AM UPDATE: The Rachel Marie has headed downtown (per MarineTraffic.com and a sighting from Sunny near the pier). We’ll update when we see/hear Melissa Ann taking its place. (A few minutes later) From Councilmember McDermott: “We are notifying passengers that we will resume West Seattle service with the 11:30 a.m. Pier 50 sailing. Our current plan is to repair the Rachel Marie this afternoon in time for the afternoon/evening sailings.”
4:10 PM UPDATE: Jeff Switzer with King County DOT confirms that Rachel Marie has been fixed and cleared to return to service, and should be leaving downtown around 4:15 pm.