Federal investigators are probing the cause of accident after a Seastreak Ferry carrying more than 300 passengers slammed into a dock in Lower Manhattan on Wednesday, leaving at least 50 people hurt, officials said.
The commuter ferry boat was pulling into Pier 11 around 8:45 a.m., when the ship missed the intended slip and slammed into the dock, slicing the bow, officials said. 343 passengers were on board the shop at the time, officials said. City DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan confirmed that two of the passengers were critically injured.
According to DOT officials, the vessel was traveling above 10 mph at the time of the crash, which sources say is above the typical crawling speed when approaching the dock. “Basically, it was a hard landing,” Sadik-Khan said.
Emergency crews rushed to the scene just before 9 a.m. and FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano told reporters that paramedics arrived on the scene in about three minutes. Dozens of ambulances, fire trucks and police vehicles were scattered along the roadways near the site. Witnesses described the chaotic scene and noted many of the injured passengers were standing along the stairway waiting to disembark. Dale Connone of Rumson, NJ told reporters that he was on his phone, sending an e-mail, when the ferry hit the dock. “I heard a loud, horrible bang,” he said. His phone flew from his hand and then he toppled down.
NYPD Crime Scene officers were seen examining and documenting the damage to the boat, just before noon on Wednesday. Mayor Michael Bloomberg headed to the scene for a brief time. “Clearly, the boat did not slow down sufficiently,” OEM Commissioner Joseph Bruno said during a press conference at the pier.
While the cause of the crash remains unclear at this time, the National Transportation Safety Board and US Coast Guard were both on hand by mid-morning to begin an official investigation. In a statement, the NTSB said the captain and crew would be interviewed Thursday and officials would begin to examine the mechanical systems. Police officials said all five crew members had passes Breathalyzer tests on Wednesday.
In addition to the hundreds of emergency workers, the American Red Cross sent disaster relief crews to the scene as well. Communications Officer Michael de Vulpillieres said crews arrived about 30 minutes after the crash. “We’re here to provide emotional support to the victims and first responders and we are working with the families of those injured,” he said at the scene. “This is a traumatic event and our trained volunteers are here to help.”
In a statement, Seastreak said “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 noted they are working with federal authorities to get to the bottom of what happened. “We don’t have those answers yet, but will do whatever we can to find out.”