Caneel Bay Ferry Collides with Dinghy; Driver Sent Overboard with Serious Head Trauma

The Lady Caneel I ferry collided with a dinghy last week en route to tranquil Caneel Bay Resort, above.

Russ Kerr

It was likely still dark at 6 a.m. on Friday morning, January 6, when the Lady Caneel I ferry, en route to Caneel Bay Resort, collided with a dinghy just off Lind Point, seriously injuring Russ Kerr, who was piloting the dinghy.

The captain of the Lady Caneel I  — whose name was not available as of press time —  said he left the shipyard and piloted the vessel toward the Caneel Bay Resort when he heard a loud noise, according to initial  reports.

“When he inspected the water around him, he noticed they had collided into a 12-foot dingy and there was an injured male aboard.” according to a VIPD release. “The dingy was towed to shore by another small vessel that was in the area.”

The collision threw Kerr, who operates an information booth across the street from the Cruz Bay U.S. Post Office, into the water with broken ribs, a broken arm and severe head trauma, according to the victim’s friends.

The 61-year-old Kerr was taken to the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center for treatment of his injuries, the press release continued.

Kerr was eventually transferred to R.L. Schneider Hospital on St. Thomas where he had to spend Friday night as doctors did not think it was safe to air-lift him to medical facilities in Florida or Puerto Rico in his condition, according to friends.

He spent Friday night at the St. Thomas hospital where family members were cheered when he was able to move his legs and even woke up and spoke a few words, according to friends.

The incident was reported by the Lady Caneel I captain — whose name was not available as of press time — and U.S. Coast Guard officials and V.I. National Park Acting Chief Ranger Ludric Smith responded, according to V.I. National Park Superintendent Mark Hardgrove.

“The collision must have been pretty strong because it threw him in the water,” said Hardgrove. “It’s a good thing they were able to find him and get him out of the water.”

The only people on the ferry were the captain and first mate, neither of whom were injured, according to Caneel Bay Resort Managing Director Nikolay Hotze.

“We had an accident this morning and it’s still under investigation,” said Hotze. “USCG and V.I. Police Department officials are reconstructing what happened. Our captain and first mate are being questioned.”

“They were the only people on board the ferry and they were not injured,” Hotze said.

Circumstances surrounding the early-morning marine accident remained unclear last week  and USCG officials did not immediately return St. John Tradewinds phone calls requesting comment.

Friends and family members were hoping Kerr’s condition would improve enough by Saturday or Sunday to be able to air lift him to a larger medical facility for treatment.