New York ferry crash injures dozens

Last updated 08:54 10/01/2013

New York commuter ferry crashes

CRASH: The accident happened at a pier near the South Street Seaport, at Manhattan's southern tip.
REUTERS
CRASH: The accident happened at a pier near the South Street Seaport, at Manhattan's southern tip.

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At least 57 people were injured, 11 seriously, when a commuter ferry struck a dock in New York during morning rush hour.

A corner of the ferry was ripped open, and passengers said people fell on each other, screaming and crying.

One witness said a ferry employee moments before the accident had mentioned the boat's recent trouble with manoeuvring. The cause of the accident was under investigation.

Passengers aboard the Seastreak Wall Street ferry said scores of people who had been waiting to disembark were hurled to the deck after a routine trip across New York Harbor.

"We were pulling into the dock. The boat hit the dock. We just tumbled on top of each other. I got thrown into everybody else. ... People were hysterical," said Ellen Foran.

Firefighters were still carrying people away on stretchers an hour after the crash.

The most seriously injured person had a severe head wound from falling down the stairs. Most injuries were minor.

About 327 people were aboard the boat, said Tom Wynne, spokesman for Seastreak, which boasts on its website that its "fast passenger catamarans provide the fastest commute to New York City!"

"The ferry came into the dock hard," Wynne said. "When the vessel hit the dock, the passengers obviously fell."

He declined to name the ferry captain but said, "All of our captains have a great deal of experience."

Dee Wertz was on shore waiting for the ferry and saw the impact. She said she had been talking with a ferry employee about how the boat's captains had been complaining lately about its manoeuvrability.

"He was telling me that none of these guys like this boat," Wertz said. "It was coming in a little wobbly. It hit the right side of the boat on the dock hard, like a bomb."

The ferry, built in 2003, had recently undergone a major overhaul that gave it new engines and a new propulsion system, but officials said it was too soon to tell whether they played any role in the crash.

The ferry company, Seastreak, issued a statement saying it would work with investigators to determine the cause of the accident. The National Transportation Safety Board said it had dispatched investigators to the scene.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with those that were injured," Seastreak said.

New York City's transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, said the ferry was coming in at 10 to 12 knots, or about 19 kmh, when it collided with one slip and hit a second.

After the impact, the boat was able to dock normally. Wertz said passengers raced off once the ramp came down.

"I think people just wanted to get the heck off the boat as soon as they could," she said.

Police said the ferry crew passed alcohol breath tests given after the crash.

In 2003, 11 people were killed when a Staten Island Ferry crashed into a city pier after its pilot passed out at the wheel. Three people were badly hurt and about 40 injured when the same ferry hit the same pier in 2010 because of a mechanical problem.

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The Seastreak Wall Street has been in accidents before. Coast Guard records said the ferry hit a cluster of fender piles while docking in 2010, punching a hole in the ship's hull. In 2009, it suffered another tear on the bow after another minor docking collision. No one was injured either time.

- AP and Reuters

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