The captain and pilot of the ferry that crashed off Cape Cod last weekend, injuring 18 people, have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into the accident.
The ferry Iyanough hit the jetty and grounded on the rocks at the Hyannis Harbor entrance around 10 p.m. on June 16. The ferry serves the 26-mile route between Nantucket and Hyannis. There were 48 passengers, six crew members and three food service workers on board the vessel at the time of the accident.
The Steamship Authority, which operates the ferry, said in a statement released Wednesday that inclement weather, strong winds and choppy seas have all been cited as complicating factors in the grounding of the vessel. The U.S. Coast Guard is interviewing crew members to determine the exact cause of the accident.
The authority said both the captain and pilot were in the wheelhouse at the time of the accident.
"As part of the investigation, the Captain and Pilot underwent alcohol and drug testing," the Steamship Authority said. "Both tested negative for alcohol. We are awaiting the results of the drug tests."
Coast Guard personnel spoke to NBC Boston on Wednesday about the harrowing rescue.
"It was unlike any case I've ever been on," Coast Guard rescue swimmer Justin Munk said.
Munk and his fellow Coast Guard rescuers were aboard a helicopter hovering over the high-speed ferry after it hit the jetty.
"To see how it hit, it was kind of shocking to me that they went directly into it," he said.
According to Munk, the crew started loading up the most severely injured first, hoisting them up into the helicopter. From there, it was a short flight over to the Hyannis Airport.
"We were dealing with two pretty critically injured people," he said. "There was definitely a sense of urgency to get as many people off as we could."
At one point, Munk said they had 10 passengers in the rescue helicopter.
"This is definitely what we train for," he said.
Fellow Coast Guard crew member Devin Reese Lloyd was tasked with making sure all 10 of those passengers fit.
"It was a little bit different than you would expect," he said. "You don't see that very often."
The Iyanough is expected to be out of service for three to four weeks, , according to the Steamship Authority. Another high-speed ferry has been leased in order to accommodate passengers traveling to and from Nantucket.
Passengers are encouraged to check for any schedule changes and updates at www.steamshipauthority.com.