Dozens hurt as Manhattan morning ferry crashes at dock

Thu, Jan 10, 2013, 00:00

A ferry crashed as it was docking in lower Manhattan yesterday morning, injuring several dozen passengers, according to fire officials.

The cause of the accident, which occurred at about 8.45am at Pier 11, at South Street and Gouverneur Lane, was not immediately clear, according to a spokesman for the New York Fire Department. A team from the National Transportation Safety Board is headed to New York to lead the investigation.

A large gash in the ferry could be seen, and passengers described a huge jolt as the ferry pulled into the dock.

“Basically it was 60 to zero,” said Steve Mann, a passenger on the ferry, which left New Jersey at 8am. “When we hit the dock everybody went flying.”

Nearly 60 people were hurt, according to emergency officials, and a number of passengers were taken off the boat on flatboards with their heads and necks immobilised.

Janette Sadik-Khan, the New York City transportation commissioner, said two people were critically injured and nine others were being treated for serious wounds. Dozens of others sustained less severe injuries.

Both passengers with critical injuries suffered head trauma, fire officials said.

The closest hospitals, including Bellevue Hospital Center and NYU Langone Medical Center, are not fully operational as a result of Hurricane Sandy, and the injured were sent to several area hospitals, including one in Brooklyn.

Head

Ms Sadik-Khan said the ferry was moving at a steady clip – 11-16mph (18-26km/h) – when it made its first impact with one of two loading barges that extend from the pier. The ferry then hit a second loading dock, she said.

The ferry, operated by Sea-streak Ferry, provides daily service from Atlantic Highlands and Highlands in New Jersey to Lower Manhattan, and can accommodate several hundred passengers.

Charles Rowe, a spokesman for the Coast Guard, said initial reports indicated there were 326 passengers and five crew members on the ferry.

At the time of the accident, the ferry was approaching the dock and many people were standing, lined up and preparing to exit, which may have made it harder for them to brace at the time of impact. Passengers also reported confusion after the accident, with dozens scrambling to rush off the vessel. The most severely injured were thrown downstairs, officials said. None of the passengers were thrown into the freezing water, officials said.

One passenger, Chris Avore, speaking to ABC News, said the impact was similar to what one might feel in a car crash.

“Almost no one knew what was going on,” he said.

The ferry is 140ft long and 30ft wide. Photos provided by passengers to local news agencies showed shattered glass and other damage aboard the boat.

The city has been working to expand ferry service along New York City’s waterways in recent years, and accidents are relatively rare. – (New York Times )