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‘Suspicious’ package, men noted on ferries

It was a tense and frustrating week for Washington State Ferries riders as the FBI on Monday released photos of two men who had raised concerns, and two days later a suspicious package was reportedly found on a vessel.

On Wednesday, WSF spokeswoman Marta Coursey confirmed that a suspicious package was found that morning in the men’s restroom on the M/V Vessel Puyallup, which had just off-loaded at Colman Dock after arriving full of passengers and cars from Bainbridge Island.

“The Washington State Patrol was called in to determine the nature of the suspicious package, and it was pulled off the vessel,” Coursey said, explaining that at least one side of the terminal was reopened approximately one hour after the package was discovered around 8 a.m.

At least one media outlet reported that WSF was considering diverting Bremerton boats to the Fauntleroy Dock, which would have significantly affected operations on the Triangle Route of Southworth/Vashon/Fauntleroy, but Coursey said such a plan was only briefly considered.

The WSF never released a service bulletin detailing a diversion of boats to Fauntleroy, and by 2 p.m. announced that full service on the Seattle-Bainbridge route had been restored.

As for the FBI release regarding two men who supposedly raised the suspicions of both passengers and ferry workers, Coursey admitted that since the sightings about a month ago there has been “an increased security presence on the ferry system.”

Coursey said the boost in security is provided by a collaboration between the WSF, the WSP and the U.S. Coast Guard, and includes more troopers assigned to the terminals and more Coast Guard officers patrolling boats on foot as well as alongside them.

However, Coursey said perhaps the best security asset her agency has is its staff.

“Our crews know who the commuters are and know what a tourist looks like and how they typically behave,” she said. “They’re the folks that pay the most attention to people and they are all highly trained in security measures.”

In fact, FBI spokeswoman Robbie Burroughs said it was a ferry worker who eventually photographed the two men featured in Monday’s release, after numerous reports came from both ferry staff and passengers regarding the the subjects.

“They were seen on multiple (WSF) runs and on different boats, and both passengers and ferry crews saw them exhibit unusual behavior,” she said, further describing that as only “unusual interest in the workings of the ferries, and the size and layout of the terminals.”

Burroughs said the men were not approached or questioned at the time of their sightings, although she presumed that if a trooper had been available, he or she might have been asked to interview them.

“That is why we want to talk to them now,” she said, explaining that the main reason why her office issued a request for information from the public in this instance is because it had photos of the people in question.

“Normally we don’t have these photos,” Burroughs said.

When asked why the release was not disseminated via the WSF along with the media, Burroughs said it was because her office is interested in hearing from people who know these subjects, and ferry riders aren’t necessarily the group most likely to have that knowledge.

As of Wednesday, Burroughs said her office had gotten “a lot of response and received a lot of leads, but the (incident) hasn’t been resolved yet.”

She said anyone with tips can still call her office at (206) 622-0460, but “What we’re really looking for is somebody who can identify them.”

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