A ferry full of tourists and residents returning from Virgin Gorda on Thursday afternoon, January 3, were horrified when the captain of the vessel first pushed and then punched a female crew member in the face, according to passengers.
The 3 p.m. Sundance Queen ferry, owned by Inter-island Boat Services, was only a few minutes outside of Spanish Town on its way to St. John when the violence erupted, explained a passenger.
“We were just about five minutes out from leaving the Virgin Gorda dock and the crew woman — who goes and counts people and makes sure everyone is off the boat and knows when to get back — was standing outside of the pilot house sitting on the rail,” said a St. John resident who was a passenger.
Shoved, Then Punched in Face
“The captain got up out of his chair and walked over to to this woman on the railing and shoved her so hard we thought she went overboard at first,” she said.
“He got back up and punched her in the face,” the passenger continued. “He punched her so hard it seemed like he punched a guy. Her head went back and hit the underside of the stairs and she went down.”
The next thing passengers knew, the area was covered in blood, the passenger explained.
“She had a towel held up to her face and there was a lot of blood all over the towel,” said the passenger. “All I saw was her bloody face and that is when I realized who she was. The captain just went back to the pilot house and drove the boat.”
Help from Passengers
Fellow passengers helped the injured crew member to the inside seating area and a nurse was identified on board, who attended to the victim. Tourists on the ferry were obviously frightened, the passenger added.
“Everyone on the boat was frightened to death,” said the passenger. “Most of the passengers were tourists and they were just going crazy. It was absolutely horrible, people were running around trying to make calls on their cell phones and no one came out and talked to the passengers.”
“It was really scary — it was awful,” she continued. “I had nightmares that night. The worst part was not being able to help the woman right away.”
EMTs, Police Meet Ferry
After arriving at the U.S. Customs dock in Cruz Bay a little more than an hour later, the ferry captain walked off the boat toward the Inter-island Boat Services office at the Cruz Bay Creek, the passenger explained.
“The captain got off the boat first and didn’t have to go through Customs or anything,” the St. John resident said. “He just walked across the parking lot in the direction of the ferry company office. In under a minute an EMT was there and then an ambulance and a police vehicle arrived.”
Tourists Upset by Cops
The victim was taken away in a gurney and a head brace and transported to the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center, but tourists were upset by the apparent inaction of V.I. Police Department officials.
“Tourists were standing on the back of the boat when the police came on and they were getting really upset that the police were not going to go after the captain and arrest him,” said the passenger.
“It was such a bad blemish,” the St. John resident continued. “These people went home with this idea of the Virgin Islands that men punch out women and there is no recourse. It was ugly — it was a scar.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Coast Guard and VIPD officials have launched an investigation into the incident and Inter-island Boat Services personnel are cooperating, according to a company employee.
“We can’t give any comment at this time,” said an Inter-island Boat Services employee. “We’re in full cooperation with the authorities.”
FBI, USCG, VIPD Investigating
FBI officials will most likely lead the investigation because of the criminal nature of the incident and because it occurred in international waters, explained a USCG official.
Since the Sundance Queen is a USCG-registered vessel and the captain is licensed through the department, USCG officials will take part in the investigation as well.
The incident was recorded twice on the VIPD’s St. John incident log on Thursday, January 3, but no time was given for either entry.
The first was a report by a citizen present in Cruz Bay’s Leander Jurgen Command who reported “an accidental injury that occurred while in international waters.” The incident was listed as an accidental injury.
The second log was called in by a citizen who reported being assaulted on a trip to Virgin Gorda. That incident was listed as an aggravated assault.