When minutes mattered, Delta ferry was a no-go

6:44 PM, Dec 26, 2011   |    comments
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Brian Cleverly

RIO VISTA, CA - Even though witnesses could hear the siren within moments of calling 911, it took paramedics a half hour to reach a Sacramento man critically injured in a fall from the mast of his sailboat.

A 911 call log obtained by News10 shows emergency crews from Rio Vista responding to the Oct. 19 accident at nearby Hidden Harbor Marina were forced to take a 23-mile detour because a new Caltrans ferry was inoperable.

Brian Cleverly, 75, fell from the 40-foot mast while replacing a light at the top and landed headfirst on the deck below.  He was taken off life support Nov. 6 at Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center.

The Real McCoy II, placed into service early this year to replace the original 1946 ferry, has been plagued by problems with its hydraulic propulsion system. 

The $4.3 million vessel has been tied up on the Rio Vista side of Cache Slough since early September while Caltrans works with the boat builder to correct the problem.

Although technically out of service, the ferry is staffed around the clock by Caltrans employees and was said to be available to emergency vehicles.

Caltrans spokesman Robert Haus could not immediately say why the ferry was unavailable the day Cleverly fell from the mast.

Hidden Harbor Marina owner Scott Kauffman said he and another man struggled to keep Cleverly immobilized after the fall while hearing the siren of the ambulance passing across the water on its circuitous route through Isleton.

"We were surprised he was still alive," said Kauffman, who estimated normal travel time via the 800-foot ferry crossing would have been between five and eight minutes.

According to the call log, the crew from the Montezuma Fire Protection District arrived exactly 30 minutes after the 911 call was placed and transported Cleverly to an air ambulance waiting nearby.

Cleverly's wife of 32 years, Rose, said her husband had initially shown signs of improvement before suffering a stroke in the hospital.

Rose Cleverly said her husband had been restoring the 32-foot boat in drydock for six years before moving it to a slip at Hidden Harbor Marina Oct. 1, and dreamed of sailing to Alaska.

She had been unaware of the delayed response until contacted by News10.

"We'll never know if it would have made a difference," Rose Cleverly said.  "But it's possible it could have."

by George Warren, GWarren@news10.net


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