Crash of whale-watching ship into San Diego pier caught on video

Several passengers were hurt when the Adventure Hornblower cruise ship rammed into the Embarcadero dock in San Diego on Thursday.

Several passengers were hurt when the Adventure Hornblower cruise ship rammed into the Embarcadero dock in San Diego on Thursday.

( Nelvin C. Cepeda / San Diego Union-Tribune)

A tourist's video posted online shows the confused, then panic-filled moments when a whale-watching ship rammed into its dock at San Diego’s Embarcadero, injuring seven passengers, Thursday afternoon.

The 49-second YouTube video shows the 150-foot ship coming in to dock but failing to stop until it smashes into the dock's wood planking and a railing with a thunderous crunch.

See the most-read stories this hour >>

As the Adventure Hornblower approached the dock and a line of new passengers watched, waiting for the next tour to board, light-hearted chatter can be heard on the video.



“Park it anywhere!” a person shouts to laughter.

But a moment later, the man shouts something else: “I wouldn’t stand in front of it guys!”

The ship blasted its horn and then smashed into the dock, its hull digging several feet into the structure.

Seven passengers suffered minor to moderate injuries. Of those, three were sent to hospitals with neck, back or leg injuries, said San Diego Fire-Rescue Battalion Chief David Gerboth. The others were treated by medics and released.

There were 144 people aboard the ship at the time, although it was not clear whether that included the crew members.

Interested in the stories shaping California? Sign up for the free Essential California newsletter >>

Mike and Deb Ellis, from the Phoenix area, had come to San Diego to celebrate her 60th birthday. During the cruise Thursday they said they saw two waterspouts and a lot of dolphins. Deb Ellis was in the rear of the boat on the top deck when it crashed.

“It felt like we were coming in a little hot,” she said. “Then the boat hit the dock. The next thing I heard was four blasts of the horn .... We hit pretty hard.”

Mike Ellis said that people waiting in line at the dock ran to get out of the way as the bow slammed into the walkway.

Tables, chairs and people on the top deck of the boat fell down.

Also on the top deck were Osmond DeSousa, his wife and teenage son, who were visiting from New Jersey.

“I saw it coming in fast. It hit the dock, bounced off and continued too fast to stop. The woman next to me fell, she was hurt pretty bad,” DeSousa said.

“The crew were walking on the deck yelling, ‘Brace yourselves or hold on to something.’”

See more of our top stories on Facebook >>

Mike and Deb Ellis said that after the crash, the crew started first aid on the injured, putting ice bags on bruises and bandaging cuts. They opened the snack bar for free food and drinks while passengers waited about two hours to disembark.

Tugboats had to push the ship back from the damaged walkway so passengers could get off.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Harbor police will handle the investigation.

“We’re not exactly sure what happened yet,” said Jim Unger, general manager of Hornblower Cruises and Events, who emphasized that the safety of passengers was important to the company.

Serna reported from Los Angeles. Repard writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Staff writers Dana Littlefield and Kristina Davis contributed to this report.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.


Plan unveiled for distribution of San Bernardino victims' fund

Editor and 70-plus others fired at the Orange County Register

Nude woman, found in the street, was stabbed about 24 times, police say