MUKILTEO — A former Langley resident was arrested after threatening to set off a bomb on the ferry M/V Cathlamet after it left Clinton on Thursday morning.
The bomb scare shut down the ferry route for nearly two hours and left stranded travelers on both Whidbey Island and the mainland.
Michael William Harsh, the man who the Washington State Patrol says threatened to set off a bomb on the ferry, later claimed he was bipolar and hadn’t taken his medication in recent weeks.
Harsh, 32, was booked into Snohomish County Jail on $25,000 bail. He was scheduled to be arraigned on a felony count of making a bomb threat Friday afternoon in Snohomish County Superior Court.
According to the charging documents, Harsh was heard by a ferry employee on the Cathlamet talking about having “a bomb right here and the whole place will blow up and a lot of people are gonna die.”
Another witness said Harsh was acting suspiciously, and also overheard Harsh on his cell phone saying, “I don’t know, I guess they are looking for a bomb or something.”
The Cathlamet was on its way to Mukilteo from Clinton on the 8:30 a.m. sailing. Harsh had a backpack with him, and when the ferry landed at the Mukilteo Ferry Terminal, a Mukilteo police officer met Harsh and asked him to put down his pack by the crosswalk in front of the walk-on area.
Harsh was handcuffed and detained at the scene in a Mukilteo Police Department squad car.
Detectives with the State Patrol questioned Harsh, who allegedly told officers, “I said I was going to blow up the ferry but I wasn’t going to do it today.”
Once Harsh was detained, 11 lanes’ worth of passengers were asked to evacuate their vehicles and move to the back of the holding area.
“We have a major security threat on board the ferry,” a voice blared over the loudspeaker system at the terminal. “We ask that you evacuate your vehicle and move to the back of the holding lot.”
Drivers and commuters peeked at the scene in front of them, taking pictures and video of the dramatic spectacle only a few hundred feet away.
Many of those left waiting for the bomb scare to end were commuters. Two UPS drivers were stranded and kept from delivering their parcels and packages. It was the first time in 30 years that Scot Graham had been delayed because of a bomb threat to the ferry.
He had no choice but to wait, which was especially frustrating for Graham because he normally makes the 8:30 a.m. sailing.
“It’s kind of an inconvenience to drive all the way around,” Graham said. “I should have been on the earlier (sailing).”
Another driver said she travels on the ferry a few times a month.
Tracey Dunn saw the police approach and arrest Harsh as he got to the crosswalk for walk-on passengers to cross from the bus stop to the terminal. Dunn said Harsh was mumbling but didn’t resist arrest or try to assault any officers.
Harsh was transported to the State Patrol office in the Silver Lake area of south Everett. He was interviewed by two detectives, where Harsh allegedly admitted he had made comments about bombs, sinking the ferry, and the chemical Thermite being used to blow up the ferry.
Several security agencies were notified and responded to Mukilteo Landing. A Coast Guard helicopter patrolled the area as a crew in an inflatable dinghy examined the hull of the ferry.
State Patrol K-9 units inspected the car and passenger decks, and a bomb squad arrived to handle Harsh’s backpack.
A bomb squad officer put on a protective green suit, approached the backpack and set up a device to safely destroy any potential bomb just before 10:30 a.m. He slowly backed away about 20 feet, then turned and returned to the bomb squad truck. A few minutes later, the device made a loud bang, the bag flew 10 feet into the air and its contents scattered on the pavement.
The officer again approached, inspected the bag’s contents, then turned back to the truck and gave a thumb’s up signal. Washington State Ferry employees quickly asked passengers and drivers to return to their vehicles and prepare to load the ferry.
The M/V Kittitas was rerouted to Edmonds during the delays for one sailing, about 10 a.m.
Four sailings were canceled from Mukilteo, and the bomb scare delayed sailings until 1 p.m.