West Side divers heralded for ferry parts salvation effort

Ferry cables

Following a malfunction of the popular Upper Ferry, divers from West Side Fire Department in Bivalve searched the cold, dark Wicomico River and retrieved parts the ferry lost.

But a humble Joe Dickerson, deputy chief of the fire department, downplayed their assistance.

“It’s just something we do, if we need to help somebody out. That’s the way we do it. We work together. I was there assisting. The divers were Jeff Thomas and Pat Tobat. And Crystal Hayes and Riley Scott assisted, too,” he said.

“There were sections that came off the ferry. After we got the right location and we found out where it was, we hooked up chains to the parts and the county pulled them out with an excavator, or a crane,” Dickerson said.

Divers were on the scene on Sunday, March 13, two days after the malfunction, said Weston Young, director of the county’s Public Works Department.

Wicomico County’s Chief Executive, Bob Culver, announced the ferry broke down around 4:30 p.m. on Friday, March 11. After being repaired, it was running again on March 16.

It was full to its capacity of three vehicles when two of the four cables broke.

Nobody was injured. The ferry was heading from Allen to High Banks, and when the cables broke. It returned to its starting place and unloaded. Drivers of the vehicles who had been on board drove home.

Young said parts of the ramp and grate fell off for reasons that are unclear.

“There are two cables on each side, so there are four cables. Two are needed to move the ramps up and down. Two cables on the same side both snapped at the same time.  It kind of spawned, ‘Let’s try to figure this out. If they were frayed, let’s try to figure it out.’ Usually, if one cable breaks, we go out and replace it. Cables are replaced at least monthly,” Young said.

The damaged cables were welded back together for a cost of about $1,700.

An investigation showed the ferry operator was not at fault.

The Upper Ferry travels about 500 feet each way, from Allen to High Banks, both in Wicomico County.

Culver’s office praised divers from the West Side Fire Department and others who responded.

“There were several citizens and businesses that helped with this breakdown. Westside Fire Department provided divers that retrieved some of the parts of the ferry. Bob wants to plug and support their Steak dinner event that will be held on April 2. Also, 3 J Construction brought in their crane and lifted the ramp from the water,” said A. Kaye Kenney, public relations liaison for Wicomico County.

“It was a joint effort by many who were involved that made it possible for the ferry to be up and running so quickly,” Kenney said.

“The divers were wonderful,” she said, adding the fire department’s fund-raiser is April 2.


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