Safe and dry in her Kingston home, Angela Marie Raynes is trying not to think about the frantic moments Tuesday night, trapped inside her sinking car while a 911 operator tried to calm her down. "The water was up to my neck, I said to her 'please tell my husband and children that I love them because I'm going to drown at any second.'" Raynes accidentally drove her car backwards off the ferry after an exhausting and emotionally draining shift at Costco, where constant cleaning and the stress of social distancing added to normal challenges of the job. There was no crew on the deck of the ferry as she approached from the Gondola Point side around 9:30 that night. She drove onto the boat and waited.
When a second car stopped behind her without driving on, Raynes began to fear her boat was out of commission. That's when she made the near fatal decision to try to back off the ferry and move over to the lane for the second boat.
'I was upside down in the water'
The Kennebecasis River was unusually calm and, in the dark, she said she had no idea the ferry had actually started moving, well away from the Gondola Point shore on its way to the Peninsula. "I just backed up and drove off the ferry backwards," she said. "It was steep, but I thought, well it's steep when you drive on too. So I kept driving up and over and before I knew it I was upside down in the water." The car quickly righted itself and began to fill with water. She dialled 911, nearly hysterical as she talked to the operator while desperately trying to open her door, then to pound on the car windows. In the meantime her ferry had stopped and was backing up. The second ferry pulled alongside and directed a spotlight onto the car. Raynes was still on the phone to the 911 operator, the water now up to her chin, when the car suddenly lurched.
One of its wheels was caught on the submerged ferry cable.
That nudge turned the car onto its side giving her the one fleeting chance she needed.
She pushed open the passenger door and floated out, seizing onto the ferry cable as the car slipped under.
'I want to hug him'
But exhausted in the ice cold water, with her heavy coat and boots weighing her down, she was unable to pull herself toward the ferry. That's when the man she describes as "my hero" came into the picture. She says ferry operator Peter McLaughlin was shouting and swearing, trying to motivate her to move herself hand over hand along the cable. He then threw out a life preserver, pulled her to the ramp and dragged her onto the deck.
"I've been wanting to talk to him and thank him. I want to hug him, but I can't because of social distancing," she jokes. An ambulance was waiting on the Peninsula side. Wrapped in blankets, Raynes was taken to hospital for an examination and released an hour later. She lay awake for hours that night before finally drifting off to sleep. She's now trying to put the whole incident behind her. She stays as busy as she can, but still has moments when she breaks down. "I can't believe it happened. I can't believe I survived it."