02/13/2013 03:29 EST | Updated 04/15/2013 05:12 EDT

Ferry worker trapped in flooded cabin as ship began sinking

A ferry worker who was on the Queen of the North as it began sinking told the B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver that she thought she would drown after becoming trapped in her cabin.

Lynn Cloutier was a BC Ferries caterer who almost didn't make it off the ship alive when it struck land and began sinking off Gil Island on March 22, 2006.

Karl Lilgert, the officer in charge that night, is on trial. Lilgert was charged with criminal negligence in the deaths of two passengers.

Jurors at Lilgert's trial have already heard horrific eyewitness accounts of the Queen of the North sinking: how the boat shuddered and skidded as it struck land; how sea water flooded the engine room; how the boat rolled and pitched as it took on water; and how when the lights went out and it slipped beneath the waves, it reminded them of the film Titanic.

Wednesday, Lynn Cloutier dabbed tears from her eyes and told the jury that as the water level rose around her, she prepared herself to drown.

Cloutier was off-shift and sleeping when the ferry boat ran aground, just after midnight.

The first three bangs

She said the first crash woke her up. The second impact threw her from her bed, and her feet landed in water.

The third bang loosened a heavy locker from the wall, and fell across her cabin door, trapping her inside as water rose to her knees. Cloutier said she sat on her bed and the wet blankets, praying and crying for help.

Then she saw pictures of her grandchildren floating in the room and felt that they were somehow calling out to her, pleading for her to get out.

The five-foot-one woman pushed with all her might, and dislodged the locker as the water made it up to her neck. She swam out, through waves in the hallway. A fellow crew member helped her get up the stairs.

Once out of the water, Cloutier's training kicked in. She was determined to make it off the boat, and her first concern was getting the passengers off as well.

She first checked the lounge to make sure no one was there. Then, on deck, she started barking orders: "C'mon, lower the lifeboats! We don't have much time."

All the 101 crew and all passengers — save two — made it into life rafts and off the sinking boat. Those two passengers, Gerald Foisy and Shirley Rosette were on the register for the ferry, but their bodies were never found, and they are presumed to have gone down with the ship.

Fishing boats in the area and residents of nearby Hartley Bay scrambled to mount a rescue effort, and transported the lifeboat passengers back to Hartley Bay.

Cloutier told the courtroom that when BC Ferries officials made contact with her after the sinking, the first they told her was: "Don't say anything. Don't talk about what happened."

In 2009, Cloutier told CBC News that she had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, which often left her shaking and unable to sleep.

She said she had a recurring nightmare of hearing the ship's three bangs as it ran aground: She wakes up, confused, thinking she's back on the ship, trapped again in her cabin.