Van with 4 plunges off Calif. ferry; all escape

AP News
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Posted: Jan 13, 2012 3:21 PM
Van with 4 plunges off Calif. ferry; all escape

A minivan carrying a family of Taiwanese tourists plunged from a ferry into Newport Harbor when the vehicle was rear-ended by a sedan, authorities said Friday.

The couple and their two children, ages 4 and 6, escaped unharmed with help from a nearby boater, Newport Beach Fire Department spokeswoman Jennifer Schulz said.

The black Mercedes-Benz sedan accelerated as it boarded the three-car Balboa Island Ferry, hitting the minivan and sending it into 15 feet of water, Schulz said.

The woman driving the Mercedes, which was left teetering off the front of the ferry with a smashed front bumper, told investigators that the car's accelerator got stuck.

She also was not injured. It was not clear whether she would face any charges, and a phone message left with Newport Beach police was not immediately returned.

James Donoghue, who was on a small tender boat nearby, helped the family out of the minivan's front windows and on to his boat, Schulz said. He told the Orange County Register that the mother was the last to get out, climbing onto his boat just 20 seconds before the van sank.

The ferry has been in operation since 1919. It carries as many as 1.5 million people a year between Balboa Island and the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach.

Donoghue said he asked the Taiwanese woman if she was OK.

"She said yes," he said, "and then she looked me square in the eye and said, `But that was a rental car.'"