GALVESTON, Texas — A car accelerated over a ferryboat ramp and plunged into the water Sunday, forcing ferry operators to halt trips between Galveston and the Bolivar Peninsula. State officials say the car is registerd to College Station resident Yiwen Zhu.
Divers pulled an Asian man’s body from the submerged Toyota but found no one else in a search of the vehicle and water, Galveston police Lt. D.J. Alvarez said. The man was believed to have drowned. Despite reports that a child was in the car, divers found no other bodies, police said. The body was taken to the Galveston County Medical Examiner. Authorities have not released the identity of the body.
“When the divers got to the vehicle, it was approximately 30 feet beneath the surface,” Alvarez said. “The vehicle was intact, all the windows were up, and the front and rear windshields were intact, which cuts down the thought of someone being ejected from the vehicle.”
The man’s body was taken to the Galveston County Medical Examiner’s Office. Police declined to identify him, pending notification of relatives. The car is registered to a College Station resident.
The car plunged into the water at the Galveston side of the Galveston-Port Bolivar ferry about 5 p.m., and wreckers removed the car from the water at 7:45 p.m. as hundreds of bystanders looked on.
Witnesses waiting to board the Robert C. Lanier ferry said the car waited in line, then sped past them and ran over an orange emergency cone before cascading off the No. 2 ramp where no ferryboat was docked.
Leah Griffin, of Port O’Connor, was driving up the coast with relatives and was next in line to board the ferry.
“The car whipped in front of us, and I thought it was going to make a U-turn,” Griffin said. “It went over the cone and they gunned it and went right over the ramp.”
The car collided with the raised metal ramp, then plunged into the water. “It was obviously deliberate,” Griffin said. “At least it seemed that way to me, but only God knows that.”
The car’s front was damaged, but it floated in the water for several minutes, other witnesses said.
Ferry security workers thwarted rescue efforts, witnesses said. D.J. Page, of Port O’Connor, was preparing to board the Lanier when he saw the car plunge into the Gulf.
“One guy in an Escalade was peeling off his clothes, and ferry operators wouldn’t let him in the water,” Page said. “They just sat there and watched it. Everyone with a badge was just like, ‘Get away! Get away!’”
Texas Department of Transportation policies and procedures do not allow people who aren’t employees to go into the water or cross over the ferry landings or edges of the boats, agency spokeswoman Raquel Lewis said.
The car floated for several minutes before sinking nose first. Page snapped a picture of the car’s rear end floating in the water.
“This was our first trip to Galveston since (Hurricane) Ike,” Page said. “We went cruising around to see what it was like and ended up seeing this.”
With ferry operations shut down, hundreds of bystanders swatted mosquitoes and watched as wreckers pulled the car from the water. Ferry operations resumed about 8 p.m. officials said.