Ferry accident at Pier 11 injures dozens

January 9, 2013 8:16:48 PM PST
A high-speed ferry loaded with hundreds of commuters from New Jersey slammed into a dock in lower Manhattan during the morning rush hour, injuring dozens of people.

The Seastreak ferry hit the dock pulling into Pier 11 near the South Street Seaport just before 9 a.m., opening a large gash on the starboard side of the bow.

At least 81 people suffered injuries, 10 were serious, but as of Wednesday night only three people remained hospitalized with one in critical condition. NYPD says the most serious person has a head injury and went to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Officials said no one has life threatening injuries.

"You couldn't tell it was getting ready to dock it was just coming in you didn't know it hit something and it was a disaster," said Tony Lucia, an injured ferry passenger.

Tony Lucia is one of the many passengers injured Wednesday morning when the ferry slammed into the pier .

"Everyone flew, everyone just flew, and people were on the ground," Lucia said.

For about two hours paramedics treated victims on site and one after another ambulances transported them to at least seven area hospitals.

Many have been treated throughout the day and discharged home.

FOR MORE FROM PASSENGERS ABOARD THE FERRY - CLICK HERE

There were 343 on board at the time, including five crew members. The ferry has a capacity of 400. All five crew members passed alcohol Breathalyzer tests

"Nothing seemed like it was going to be out of the ordinary," passenger Chris Avore said. "There was once or twice where I was talking with a colleague where we actually thought it was coming in a little hot near Brooklyn, where we're not used to seeing it. Then the next thing we knew, you feel the jolt and then everybody goes flying."

Dozens of people were taken from the ferry on stretchers, rushed to New York Downtown Hospital or New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center on the Upper East Side for treatment. Hundreds were evaluated on the dock in a makeshift triage area and on the ferry.

"Once you basically pass the Statue of Liberty, you pretty much know that you're going to be there soon, so a lot of people start standing up, milling around, getting their coats and everything like that," Avore said. "Anybody who was standing went to the ground."

Most of the injuries were on the upper level, where the people were standing while waiting to disembark. The man who suffered the critical head injury apparently fell down the stairs, possibly cracking the window. He was reportedly rushed into surgery and has been upgraded to stable condition. The second person critically injured also suffered a head injury.

The ferry was the 8 a.m. from Conner's Pier in Highlands, New Jersey, to the Wall Street area. It was scheduled to arrive at Pier 11 at 8:45 a.m.

The cause of the crash is unknown, but sources say the catamaran only recently was put back into service after being damaged during Sandy. The Coast Guard was on site inspecting the vessel and the pier, which reopened shortly after noon. The National Transportation Safety Board has also dispatched a team to investigate the crash.

FOR MORE ON THE INVESTIGATION - CLICK HERE

The ferry company, Seastreak LLC, issued a statement saying it would work with investigators to determine the cause of the accident.

"We are simply shocked and stunned that this happened. We know passengers rely on us to provide safe transit on our boats - and safety is the number one concern for our company. We are very sorry this accident occurred.," the company said, "We are working with the National Transportation Safety Board and Coast Guard to determine what happened. We don't have those answers yet, but will do whatever we can to find out."

Seastreak added that its top priority is helping those people who suffered injuries.

"We're working to bring family members to the city and to make other arrangements to help them," the company said. " We want to thank New York City's emergency responders for arriving on the scene so quickly and helping us attend to those who were hurt. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with those who were injured."

New York City's transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, said the ferry was coming in at 10 to 12 knots, or about 12 mph, when it collided with one slip and then hit a second. After the impact, the boat was able to dock normally.

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 in either of those mishaps.

The naval architecture firm that designed the reconfiguration, Incat Crowther, said in an August news release that the ferry's water-jet propulsion system had been replaced with a new system of propellers and rudders to save fuel costs and reduce pollution. The hull was also reworked and the ship made 15 metric tons lighter. At top speed, the ferry travels at around 35 knots, or 40 mph.

Ferry accidents happen every few years in New York. In 2003, 11 people were killed when a Staten Island Ferry crashed into a pier on Staten Island 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.

PHOTOS FROM THE SCENE OF THE FERRY ACCIDENT

Some details from the Associated Press.

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