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1 dead after SUV plunges into water at Anacortes ferry dock

A Jeep is brought up from Puget Sound after it drove off the Anacortes Ferry Dock (Washington State Patrol photo)

ANACORTES, Wash. - A woman was killed when she drove her Jeep Cherokee through a barrier at high speed and plunged into the water at the Washington State Ferries terminal at Anacortes, the Washington State Patrol said.

The State Patrol said she is a 30-year-old from Everett.

The emergency forced the ferry system to suspend service between Anacortes and the San Juan Islands for several hours, with service slowly resuming Thursday afternoon.

Trooper Kevin Fortino of the Washington State Patrol said the vehicle drove onto the ferry loading bridge and went through the barrier arm at the end of the ferry dock at about 9:45 a.m. Thursday and plummeted into the water. Divers recovered the car just after 1:30 p.m. and a tow truck pulled the Cherokee from the water a short time later.

Trooper Heather Axtman said a preliminary investigation found that the driver apparently arrived at the ferry terminal at about 7:50 a.m., paid the ferry fare, then drove into the vehicle staging area and parked for quite some time. The driver later started the engine and drove the wrong way back toward the ticket booths, then turned back around and returned to the staging area and parked again.

After a couple of minutes, the driver put the vehicle back into drive, took off at a high rate of speed and went flying off the end of the loading dock, Axtman said. No ferry was at the dock at the time.

Police don't know whether it was intentional or if the driver was having a medical emergency or some other scenario. But witness Farley McClean who watched it happen told KOMO News, "It was not an accident. Period. You could tell."

Another witness said the driver appeared to know exactly what he or she was doing.

Skagit County sheriff's officials earlier said they received a call from Anacortes police about a vehicle in the water near the terminal. The Sheriff's Office sent a dive team to assist with the recovery of the vehicle and driver. A Border Patrol dive team and the U.S. Coast Guard also responded to the scene.

The Anacortes terminal serves as the ferry system's gateway to the San Juan Islands, with sailings to San Juan, Orcas, Lopez and Shaw islands, as well as Sidney, British Columbia.

Due to the emergency, the ferry Elwha returned passengers to Shaw Island and Orcas Island, the ferry Yakima was being held at Friday Harbor on San Juan Island and the ferry Samish was delayed into Lopez Island, where they remained until the Jeep was pulled from the water. Eastbound service was resuming Thursday afternoon but was expected to be off schedule for much of the rest of the day.

The victim's identity has not been released.

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