Suffering severe head trauma after being struck by a ferry boat, St. John resident Russ Kerr was airlifted to Jackson Memorial just after midnight on January 7, where he remains in stable condition but under close supervision in the Intensive Care Unit.
Kerr was driving his 12-foot inflatable dinghy early Friday morning, January 6, when he was struck by the Lady Caneel II ferry en route to Caneel Bay Resort.
The marine collision did not toss Kerr overboard, and his deflated inflatable dinghy was towed to shore with help from a third vessel, explained U.S. Coast Guard spokesperson Ricardo Castrodad.
“USCG and Marine Safety Detachment received notification from the Lady Caneel II around 6:05 a.m. on the morning of the incident January 6, that the ferry had struck a dinghy that was being piloted by Russ Kerr,” said Castrodad. “The man was not thrown into the water. When the ferry ran over the dinghy Mr. Kerr was still on board and the Lady Caneel II made arrangements with another vessel in the area to take him shore side where EMS personnel rendered assistance and he was transported to R.L. Schneider Hospital on St. Thomas.”
Kerr spent Friday night in the St. Thomas hospital while friends and family members tried to find a nearby medical facility with a trauma center which could handle his injuries. Kerr suffered a broken arm and broken ribs along with severe head trauma.
The St. John resident, who ran an information booth in Cruz Bay across from the U.S. Post Office, was finally airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami around 1 a.m. on Sunday morning, January 8. As of press time, Kerr remained in the ICU at Jackson with his children at his side.
Family members created a Prayers for Russ Kerr page on Facebook, to keep friends updated on Kerr’s condition and also allowing them to offer condolences and words of encouragement.
As Kerr battles back from his injuries, USCG officials continued investigating the incident, explained Castrodad.
“We received notification after the incident had taken place and from a search and rescue standpoint there was nothing to respond to,” said Castrodad. “Our USCG personnel still went to the scene around 8 a.m. that morning to begin the investigation of the incident, which is ongoing.”
As part of the investigation, USCG officials will conduct drug and alcohol tests on the Lady Caneel II captain and first mate, who were the only two aboard the ferry, Castrodad added.
Investigators will also take a look at Kerr’s dinghy, according to Castrodad.
“As part of the fact finding aspect of the investigation, one of the things the investigators looked for when they looked over the dinghy was navigation lights,” said the USCG spokesperson. “They did not see any type of lights on board as far as the dinghy. They will be looking into that.”
USCG’s initial assessment showed Kerr’s dinghy deflated with damage across the bow and toward the engine, according to Castrodad.
The Lady Caneel II, which was hauled out of the water for several days for the assessment, only had a few indentations on her bow and some scrapping of paint, Castrodad added.
“At this point the investigation is still ongoing and these types of investigations usually take a few weeks and sometimes a month to do all of the fact finding,” said the USCG spokesperson.