Cause of ramp collapse on River Street still under investigation

Cause of ramp collapse on River Street still under investigation

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - An investigation is underway on River Street after a dock ramp collapsed over the weekend sending dozens of bystanders into the water who were waiting to catch the ferry to Hutchinson Island.

We still do not know what caused the collapse. That's what inspectors and engineers are working to find out.

It was a much different scene here on Saturday. There were at least 50 people who were waiting on the ferry when the ramp suddenly collapsed.

Nearly 30 people were injured and 13 were transported to the hospital. It's still unclear whether this was caused by a seawall collapse or if there was a mechanical problem with the ramp.

Several people who were on the ramp describe hearing a very strange noise just moments before it happened.

"I started hearing a loud, cracking noise, I looked over and I saw something shift. Basically, the dock tipped over," said Phoenix Tirado.

"There were a lot of people on it but it appeared to drop straight down and then tip and then dump everyone into the water," said Matthew Adams.

Normally, folks aren't allowed to wait on the ramp or dock until the ferry arrived.

Investigators estimate at least 50 people were standing on this dock ramp waiting for one of the Chatham Area Transit ferries on Saturday. According to city officials, this dock isn't usually used to accommodate ferry-goers.

"It's normally used as a dock for day trippers, folks coming in and out for lunch and folks going downtown. So it's not a dock they normally use," said City of Savannah spokesperson Saja Aures.

City officials say CAT has been using this dock for the last few weeks while the ferry's City Hall Landing undergoes maintenance. From what we could tell, there isn't much difference between the two docks other than the signage.

At the ferry landing that's closed, there are several warning signs telling folks to stay off the ramp and dock until instructed to get on board. But we saw no signs like this at the temporary landing telling folks to stay off.

"Savannah should have done more by putting signs out, at least have someone sitting at the docks. Making sure people were not getting on there," said Tirado.

But officials say it's too soon to speculate exactly what caused it.

"One of the things we'll be looking into is operational and procedural issues. How many people were on? How many people were trying to load," said Aures.

It's unclear how long the city's investigation will take. In the meantime, some witnesses are convinced it had everything to do with the amount of weight on the ramp.

"It's like it was just sheared right off. In some areas it was really clean. In some it was jagged," Adams said.

Now, the only ferry access from River Street is at the Waving Girl landing. The public ramp that collapsed remains closed and so does the other ferry landing that's undergoing maintenance.

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