Rented 4WD rolls off ferry. Whose fault was this?

Story and video here

4WD falls off barge on way to Fraser Island, sinks

The vehicle brake does not appear to be on but shouldn’t the ferry have the rear gate up? Who is at fault here?

I have no legal background, but I would saw the drivers are responsible.

IMO, the driver was responsible for not setting the parking brake. The ferry crew is responsible for A) not chocking the wheels; and B) failing to close the ramp.

Since the ferry was under way, and the crew neglected to raise the ramp, I would probably assign responsibility to the ferry crew. They’re there to make sure vehicles don’t fall into the ocean, even when drivers do silly things. That is, the knew, or should have known, that people don’t set their brakes.

The one ferry I’ve been on they never blocked the wheels on any of the cars, and I don’t think the ramp was ever fully up, just at a slight angle, like it appears in the video.

I have been on quite a few car ferry crossings, never did they chock the wheels. They did insist on setting the e-brake, perhaps if you could not they would chock them.

The ferryman cannot personally and physically verify that every car’s hand brake has been set by the driver. There are signs conspicuously placed notifying drivers to set their brake. If a driver doesn’t do that, he is liable for the consequences. The same as if he parked in a shopping mall and didn’t set his brake and his car rolled away.

I once bought a used van, on which the previous driver had replaced the transmission and didn’t install a lockout. I once forgot to put it in park when I shut it off, and when I got out go to into McDonalds, the van started to roll. It was a scary moment scampering back into the drivers seat of a Newtonian van. Guess whose fault that was? Not McDonalds.

The driver, primarily. But I wonder if drivers were instructed, through signage or verbally from the crew, to set the parking brake.

I think there’s a significant difference between a McDonald’s parking lot and a ferry. I’m not saying the driver wasn’t stupid or careless, but I feel like the ferry people have a lot more responsibility to make sure that stupidity or carelessness doesn’t cause vehicles to roll off the ferry than McDonald’s does to protect drivers in their parking lots.

Here, the large ferries don’t have ramps. The ramps are at the docks. Instead, they put up a net. Smaller ones have ramps, which are put up when sailing.

Nevertheless, the ferry operator should have failsafes in place, such as raising the ramp.

Now I wonder if the rental place’s [del]ripoff[/del]added-value optional protection waiver coverage includes something like this…

I’m going to go with mechanical malfunction. These cars all have automatic transmissions. You cannot turn the engine off unless they are in Park. Only in the most extreme conditions will the weight of the car overrule the locking park mechanism. That being said, I don’t think there’s an excuse for not having a barrier to keep random crap, or people, from just rolling into the sea.

You can turn the engine off in gear in an automatic. I’ve accidentally done it. You can’t turn it back on unless it is in Park or Neutral.

I have, but only for cars that get parked on ramps. For the ferry trip I take most often it’s only used on two of the four ferries in use.

If it has an actual key (goes into a lock cylinder), the engine can be turned off in any gear. However, the key cannot be removed unless it’s in Park.

It can be turned on in any gear, but it cannot be started unless in Park or Neutral.

I hope the people who rented the vehicle purchased a loss damage waiver from the rental company.
Damage waiver or, as it is often referred to, collision damage waiver (CDW) or loss damage waiver (LDW), is optional damage insurance coverage that is available to you when you rent a car. Car rental companies treat the CDW as a waiver of their right to make the renter pay for damages to the car.–Wiki

The car ferry’s I’ve been on have signs about setting the parking brake and only chuck the first car’s wheels. Safety of the car is explicity said to be the driver’s responsibility excepting gross negligence of ferry staff.

It’s a ute in Australia. I wouldn’t assume that it’s an automatic transmission.

If it was a part-time 4WD vehicle, the transfer case could have also been in Neutral for some reason, which means it don’t matter one bit what state the transmission or key are in; it’s a-rollin’.

That’s a sea-going vessel, capable of making the trip of several miles in heavy seas. It would seem to be incumbent on the ferry operator to ensure that cargo does not fall into the sea. Loading would be the responsibility of the crew, even if they let the owners of the vehicles drive onto the deck themselves. The ferry should not sail until the crew ensures that it safe to do so.

The website looks like a ferry that carries about 20 cars, it would be a simple matter for the ferymen to chock every wheel. I bet they do now.

My comment above about the McDonald’s parking lot would apply to a little two-car cable ferry carrying ten cars a day across a river in Kentucky or Montana, where you blow the horn and the ferryman gets up from his dinner table and comes and gets you.

I don’t think I’ve ever been on a ferry where that could happen.
On the ones up here, there’s usually some kind of barrier between the cars and the sea (at least a net). And I have seen ferry workers put some kind of block at the wheels of the furthest car back.
The only time I think I’ve ever been told to put on the emergency brake was when I was on a tiny (maybe 3 cars max) ferry. I can’t remember seeing any signs to that effect. I’ll definitely remember to do so next time.