Crew of stranded Liard River ferry now safe

Last modified: November 4, 2020 at 5:41pm

Crew members of a ferry stuck in the middle of an ice-choked Northwest Territories river have been rescued and are in good health.

The MV Lafferty ferry, outside the village of Fort Simpson, became stranded on Monday. An engine is said to have failed, leaving the ferry 200 metres from shore with the river fast freezing over.

An emergency team from Yellowknife-based Arctic Response was dispatched to the scene on Tuesday evening.


Alex Perrett, an Arctic Response field instructor who commanded the operation, said the ferry’s three crew members were retrieved from the vessel on Wednesday.

Perrett’s team used a small boat connected by rope line to both the shore and the ferry. The boat could be pulled along the rope to the ferry, loaded up, then pulled back to shore.

“It was relatively straightforward. We tried to keep it really simple,” Perrett said.

“It all worked out pretty well. I’m just happy everyone’s off the boat.”

The ferry, which carries people and vehicles across the Liard River to and from Fort Simpson, had wrapped its sailings for the season on Sunday. It was being moved to a safe docking site for the winter when the accident happened.


No passengers were on the ferry at the time.

The Department of Infrastructure said on Tuesday that crew members stuck on the ferry were safe, warm, and had access to food, water, and communication devices.

However, Perrett said the ferry cannot be left unstaffed on the river – so new crew members and extra supplies were sent out to the vessel as the initial crew members were rescued.

The extent of damage to the ferry remains unclear.


A Department of Infrastructure spokesperson said a winch line now attached to the ferry would be used to try to move the vessel ashore on Wednesday evening.

“River and weather conditions have made this process challenging,” the spokesperson said by email.

“A helicopter delivered additional supplies to the vessel today. There is adequate fuel and supplies on board for staff. Staff also have communications equipment on board and regular communication with the vessel will continue as efforts to move the vessel ashore are undertaken.”