JAMES CITY COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) - The captain of a ferry involved in Wednesday's accident on the James River has been fired.
VDOT spokeswoman Lauren Hansen said the decision was made to let Captain Jack Goolsby go due to results of their preliminary investigation. Goolsby has been with VDOT since September of last year.
The Jamestown-Scotland Ferry began pulling away from the pier around 8 p.m. Wednesday as vehicles were still boarding. One of those vehicles fell into the James River as a result.
"The Coast Guard is taking this incident very seriously," said Capt. John Little, the commander of Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads. "We are conducting an investigation to help ensure that situations like this do not happen again."
The woman behind the wheel, 19-year-old Emma Fretts, spoke exclusively to WAVY News 10's Lauren Compton Friday. Fretts explained how she managed to stay calm and eventually escape from her sinking car.
"It was crazy at the the time, but I don't know, I just tried to stay calm about it I guess," Fretts said.
Wednesday night Fretts' car was halfway on the boat when it started to move away from the pier.
"I hit the gas thinking maybe I could get on the ferry before but there was too much space," Fretts said.
Fretts car started to fall.
"As the ferry kept moving, the back of my car fell off the ramp, and the back end of my car fell into the water first," Frett said.
She tried to press the window button, but hit the door lock button instead. In hindsight, she realizes rolling the windows down would have brought water rushing into the car.
"As soon as the car went under I thought it was going to stay under," Fretts said. " Maybe that's why God let me hit the lock button so many times. If I had, it probably would have been a lot worse."
For a second Fretts said she felt defeated, thinking she would die in her car. But she says skills she learned as an athlete, namely dealing with pressure, took over.
"When I calmed down, I realized it was going to be fine, and I just figured a way to get out," Fretts said.
She finally got the window button to work and climbed onto her car's roof as it sunk to the bottom of the river. Her father, Tom Fretts, believes a higher power was looking over his daughter.
"I'm feeling very blessed," Tom Fretts said. "I do believe the Lord was looking over her and gave her the clarity of mind to understand what was going on and how to respond."
Emma and her father have some peace about what happened, mostly because the ferry captain felt so bad about what happened.
"He apologized. He was very apologetic, and he took responsibility for it," Emma Fretts said. " He thought he saw one of the employees give a signal that it was time to go."
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