Storm breaks barges free; crash dangerously close to camper

Barges crash campsite

Imagine waking up to find a jumbo jet had landed on the roof of your home. It's a dramatic metaphor, but it wasn't that much of an exaggeration of what happened to Dave Ray.

Ray said this was how it felt to go to sleep and, in the morning, find five massive Seaspan barges had washed up right by his camping spot on Howe Sound.

"When I woke up and looked out of the tent — dude I can't tell you, I don't know the last time I literally, like, my mouth just dropped open," said Ray.

"I must've stood there 90 seconds. Just, like, I couldn't process it. It was insane to see this just washed up right there."

Earlier this month, during a window of good weather, Ray decided to embark on a sea kayaking trip, and Islet View was a stop along the marine route.

When he woke up, at least one of the barges was around 20 feet away from where he'd been having a meal the day before.

By Ray's account, the impact likely occurred in the early morning hours of Jan. 13.

He heard a deafening bang in the middle of the night.

"The wind that night, it sounds like a bad novel, but it was literally like a freight train. I had to put in earplugs. I still couldn't sleep. The wind was just screaming," said Ray.

"And then, at two or three in the morning, I just heard these explosions, you know, giant barrels were just banging and booming. And just an obscene noise. That's when the barges must've just crashed right beneath me."

He said he doesn't want to sound alarmist, but it was uncomfortably close to the lower camping area by the beach. Luckily, he was the only person on the grounds, as January is typically not a busy month on the marine trail. If the beach area had been crowded, the situation might have been dangerous.

A violent windstorm ripped through Howe Sound that night and tore six barges away from their moorings at the Howe Sound Pulp and Paper Corporation at Port Mellon, a Seaspan spokesperson said.

Seaspan's Cherry DeGeer said the barges were empty, and there was no crew on board.

Nothing was spilled, and there were no injuries in the incident, she said. Seaspan sent crews to recover the barges. Five barges washed up at Ray's location, and a sixth one went further adrift.

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