Not first outburst for enraged ferry worker

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by SUSANNAH FRAME / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @SFrameK5

KING5.com

Posted on June 10, 2011 at 7:06 PM

Updated Sunday, Jun 12 at 7:53 PM

VASHON, Wash. -- KING 5 News has learned a state ferry worker, in hot water for an alleged case of road rage, had a similar angry incident in the past.

On Monday the deckhand, 20-year veteran Kerry Brice, was caught on tape smearing an egg sandwich on a customer's car. Now another rider says the same man blew up at her eight years ago onboard a ferry.

Lauri Hennessey of Vashon Island saw a KING 5 story posted on Facebook Thursday which piqued her interest. Being a ferry commuter she clicked to watch a story about a road rage incident involving a ferry worker. Before she pushed play, she wondered if it could be the same worker she’d had a problem with in 2003.
 
"I thought, 'I wonder if it's him?' So when I saw him, I thought I'm not surprised, not surprised at all,” said Hennessey.

The story reported that Brice lashed out at a man, Vashon resident Thomas Schiller, on Monday on the main road through Vashon Island. Schiller videotaped Brice, in his ferry uniform, smearing an egg sandwich – an Egg McMuffin from McDonald’s – all over his windshield.

Schiller says Brice got out of his car and came at his vehicle with the McMuffin at a stop light after he noticed Schiller was videotaping him. Schiller said he wanted to record Brice’s erratic driving on his cell phone camera.

Minutes later, as Schiller drove onto the Vashon ferry dock, Brice approached the car again. He’s on the tape telling Schiller to get out of the car.

"He's asking me to step out of the car. He wants to speak to me, and you know he just starts calling me names like ‘C’mon babyface, let's do this like adults,’" said Schiller.

After the story aired, Hennessey sent KING 5 News an email to say this sort of outburst had happened before. Eight years ago she threw a small bag of garbage in the garbage can onboard a Vashon ferry. Brice, on his shift, saw her do it and didn't like it one bit.

“[He was] intense, aggressive, sort of temperamental, very angry and said, ‘Take your garbage! This isn't your own private garbage dump!’" said Hennessey.

After composing herself Hennessey went up to the Captain of the boat, with her three small children, to issue a complaint.

Hennessey says the Captain didn’t seem to take her seriously.

While Hennessey talked to the Captain, Brice was still involved with the garbage. When Hennessey returned to her car Brice was waiting for her with lots of garbage in his hands.

"My first thought was get the kids in the car, he has a problem," said Hennessey.

But Brice didn't back down. Hennessey says he pushed the garbage at her and tried to shove it through her car window.

“[He was a] very intense, angry person saying, “Take it! Take it! Take the garbage now!’ [He was] really angry! His whole face was red, and he was trembling with anger,” said Hennessey.

Hennessey was a newspaper columnist for the Vashon Beachcomber newspaper at the time of the incident and wrote a column about her experience. The following is an excerpt from that article:

“I outlined the whole incident to the Captain. I told him I wanted the worker to know he could not yell at people like that. Also, I did not want him anywhere near me ever again. I asked the Captain to keep him away from the car when my children and I returned to the car.

However, nothing was done. As my children and I returned to my car, I kept saying, "Stay with me, kids," because I was so nervous. Sure enough, the still-enraged worker was hovering next to my car -- waiting for me! He actually thrust a newspaper and some more garbage at me and said, "Here, take it! Take your garbage!"

I said, "You get away from me -- now!" He continued to shove the garbage towards me, and I continued to say, "Get away from me!" I locked my kids and myself inside the car and hid from the man, still in disbelief,” wrote Hennessey in 2003.

Hennessey got an apology letter from Brice after she complained to State Ferries headquarters. But it appears nothing happened to the employee. According to a ferry spokesperson, there’s no note of any disciplinary action in his file.

Eight years and an egg McMuffin later, Hennessey wonders whatever happened to her complaint.

"It’s the ferry system’s job to monitor problems like that and to make sure there’s learning going on, instead of issuing an apology for the sake of an apology. It’s their job to give due diligence to a complaint, not just lip service,” said Hennessey.

Washington State Ferries Director of Communications, Marta Coursey, tells KING 5 News if that incident were to happen today there would be instant action taken.

“We take every customer complaint seriously. Any time our customers and our employees have difficulties with each other, we work hard to get to the heart of the matter,” said Coursey. “We have 1,200 fleet employees serving more than 22 million passengers every year; it is inevitable that stress can get overwhelming. However, it is never acceptable to act out with a customer. Ever.“

Ferry managers did take swift action after learning about the egg sandwich episode. Brice was put on administrative leave pending the results an internal investigation.

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