VANCOUVER - A medical emergency aboard a BC Ferries vessel forced the cancellation of two sailings between Metro Vancouver and Nanaimo Saturday morning.

BC Ferries confirmed Saturday afternoon that a female crew member had been injured by the bow door on the Queen of Cowichan.

The incident occurred sometime before the vessel's 8:25 a.m. sailing departing Horseshoe Bay for Nanaimo's Departure Bay. That sailing was later cancelled.

BC Ferries initially tweeted that there was a "crewing issue" on the vessel. The company later posted a service notice explaining that the delays had been caused by an "earlier medical emergency."

The vessel's return trip from Departure Bay at 10:40 a.m. was also cancelled.

BC Emergency Health Services told CTV News Vancouver it sent one crew to the Horseshoe Bay terminal around 8:10 a.m. and transported one person to hospital from the scene.

Neither EHS nor BC Ferries provided information on the condition of the worker, but Brandon Phillips was aboard the vessel at the time of the incident and said he heard "all sorts of chaos" coming from the area of the bow ramp.

"Judging by what I was hearing and seeing, I think the bow ramp malfunctioned and possibly trapped an individual," Phillips said. 

He said he was a walk-on passenger on the sailing that arrived in Horseshoe Bay before the cancelled ones. Docking seemed to be taking longer than usual, and the ship's captain announced that there was an issue with the bow door on the lower deck, Phillips said.

A few minutes after the announcement, there was a commotion on the lower deck. Phillips described hearing shouting, screaming and swearing coming from that area. He said he heard someone shouting "get me out of here" and saw a crew member with a medical bag racing toward the incident.

A little while later, the ship's pedestrian ramps were lowered so that walk-on passengers could disembark. The car ramps were still up, Phillips said, adding that he could see a person receiving medical attention on the lower deck as he got off the boat. He said the person did not seem to be very responsive.

In a statement, BC Ferry and Marine Workers Union president Graeme Johnston described the worker's injuries as "significant."

"A union member was injured on the Queen of Cowichan this morning," Johnston said. "The member was taken to hospital with significant injuries, and we hope they will make a full recovery. Our thoughts are with them, their family and the crews involved, both ship and shore."

A spokesperson for WorkSafe BC said the agency had been notified of the incident and sent safety officers to the scene.

WorkSafe BC will conduct an investigation to determine what caused the incident.

"We are unable to discuss any further details of the incident while the investigation is underway," the agency said.

Phillips was critical of the response from BC Ferries to the incident, saying they weren't very forthcoming with information about an incident that had a lot of people on board worried.

"I can understand not wanting to release personal information about the individual, but what really concerns me as a passenger and a citizen, here, is the fact that they clearly knew that something wasn't functioning or wasn't up to spec," he said. "Given that somebody was injured so severely, potentially, somebody dropped the ball somewhere."