Eighty-nine-year-old John William Barton, of Saanich, has been identified by the BC Coroners Service as the victim after a deadly crash at the Mill Bay ferry terminal on Friday morning.
Barton was pronounced dead at the scene after driving his SUV through the secure terminal and into 20 metres of water, according to regional coroner Matt Brown.
“Indications are that he likely drowned, pending further investigation,” Brown said, not wanting to completely rule out other causes until the investigation is complete.
Barton’s family has been notified.
The incident occurred during the morning commute and resulted in the closure of the BC Ferries Brentwood-Mill Bay route for the remainder of the day.
“At approximately 8:10 a.m….a vehicle drove through a secured barrier gate at the top of the trestle at a high rate of speed at the Mill Bay terminal,” said a BC Ferries press release. “After breaking through the closed gate, the vehicle travelled down the trestle and launched itself off the ramp into the water.”
Witnesses described the vehicle flipping over, landing on its roof, and then sinking at the foot of the terminal.
BC Ferries said the MV Klitsa was not involved in the incident. It had left the dock, bound for Brentwood Bay, five minutes earlier.
The ferry was about a mile and a half out in the inlet at the time. Officials do not believe the driver was trying to make that ferry.
Instead, Capt. Jamie Marshall, B.C. Ferries vice-president of fleet operations, said reports indicate the incident was a deliberate act “because it broke through a secured barrier and over an apron that was fully stowed in the upright position.”
Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall confirmed it was a white SUV.
The vehicle had veteran’s licence plates.
“It’s very tragic,” she said.
A press release issued by Shawnigan Lake RCMP Cpl. Greg Pask said the RCMP West Coast Marine Service, Vancouver Island District RCMP Underwater Recovery Team and the Mill Bay Fire Department were “successful in recovering the driver and only occupant, along with his vehicle from the water.”
An inflatable bladder helped raise the vehicle to the surface. A tow truck hauled it to shore.
Ferry service resumed at the Mill Bay-Brentwood Bay route on Saturday, with traffic control workers present to ensure a smooth and safe return to operations.