New York: A ferry that was involved in a deadly crash in 2003 slammed into a dock in New York's borough of Staten Island on Saturday, injuring dozens of passengers in an accident authorities blamed on a mechanical problem.
The Staten Island Ferry boat seemed to speed up as it approached the dock in a light rain, according to passengers and witnesses in the ferry terminal.
"It looks like it was a mechanical problem," Janette Sadik-Khan, commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, said at a news conference.
She said it appeared that the captain was unable to slow the boat as it approached the dock. Sadik-Khan said 37 people were hurt in the accident, including 17 who were sent to the hospital. But she said the injuries were not considered serious.
Passengers were put on stretchers or in wheelchairs after being taken off the ferry about 15 minutes after the accident. The boat involved in the accident was the Andrew J. Barberi, which also crashed at the same terminal in St. George, Staten Island in October 2003, killing 11 people. The boat struck the pier at full speed in that incident.
The captain, who was taking painkillers at the time, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. In the latest accident, Sadik-Khan said roughly 250 passengers and 18 crew members were on board when the crash occurred around 9:25 a.m. The ferry can carry thousands of passengers.
"It just slammed right into the dock," said Alex Gonzalez, who was on the ferry. "There was a young lady with her child that flew, literally" on impact, he told NY 1 cable news station.
Another passenger told local radio he heard "break, break" on the loudspeaker just before impact. "There was chaos, pandemonium" after the impact, Gonzalez said. Another eyewitness who was waiting in the terminal to board said people panicked and ran as the boat hit.
Ferry service between Staten Island and Manhattan resumed after about 90 minutes. The Staten Island Ferry transports 20 million people a year between Staten Island and lower Manhattan. The free ferry service is popular with tourists, taking them past the Statue of Liberty and giving them views of downtown Manhattan.
First Published: Saturday, May 08, 2010, 22:35