The same Staten Island ferry involved in a deadly crash nearly seven years ago slammed into a pier Saturday as it approached a ferry terminal, injuring at least 37 passengers, none seriously.

The motor of the Andrew H. Barberi did not respond when the captain tried to reverse it to dock at the St. George Ferry Terminal, Staten Island Borough president James P. Molinaro said, attributing the crash to "mechanical failure."

"The captain realized he was going to hit hard," Molinaro said. "The captain alerted the crew that the ship was going to hit the dock hard and they should move the passengers to the back of the ship to prevent them from getting the full impact." It was unclear how many heard or understood the warning before the 9:20 a.m. accident, The Associated Press reported.

"The impact was tremendous," Molinaro said. "That's why we're fortunate there are no serious injuries."

The 3,000-ton, 310-foot-long ferry was carrying 252 passengers and 18 crew, and was moving at about 6 mph when it hit, the AP said.

Coast Guard officials said the ferry suffered serious damage to its ramps and gouges in the decks above the waterline, the AP said. Ramps on the pier were also damaged. The city Department of Transportation described the damage to the vessel and terminal and slip as minor and said the Barberi would be taken out of service, according to the AP.

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Gov. David A. Paterson called for an investigation, and thanked crew members for their quick action.

"It looks like the situation will end quickly and everybody can get back to having a nice Saturday," Paterson said at a news briefing.

The Fire Department said 33 passengers had been checked out at hospitals, with one complaining of chest pains, the AP said. Two police officers providing ferry security were among the injured, officials said, but no crew members were hurt, according to the AP.

The impact wedged the ferry into the dock. By last night, the ferry had been moved next to the terminal, and damage to the bow was visible.

"My definition of this is an accident. Accidents are very hard to prevent," Molinaro said. "This was an accident. The engines didn't respond."

Jason and Alicia Eason, of Knoxville, Tenn., said they were seated on the Barberi when someone told them to brace for impact.

"Pretty much after that, it hit," said Jason Eason, 30, an exercise equipment salesman who came to New York for a conference. "It didn't last very long."

Asked if he was scared, Eason replied: "More confused and wondering what happened than scared."

Some Staten Island residents, including John Busso, 48, said afterward that riding the ferry is a necessity, regardless of the possibility of accidents.

"It's always a concern, but it's like everything else," said Busso, who takes the ferry to his job as a construction worker. "You've got to be careful. It's a way of life."

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Ferry service was suspended Saturday morning, but resumed before noon.

With Nomaan Merchant, Anthony M. DeStefano and Matthew Chayes

 

The incidents

 

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The first crash

On Oct. 15, 2003, the Andrew J. Barberi, traveling toward Staten Island, crashed into a concrete maintenance pier near the St. George Ferry Terminal at about 3:20 p.m. About 1,500 passengers were on board. Eleven passengers died and more than 160 were injured. Pilot and assistant captain Richard Smith, who was on painkillers at the time, collapsed at the wheel. Investigators later found that fatigue and medication were to blame. Smith pleaded guilty to 11 counts of seaman's manslaughter and served 15 months in federal prison, a term he completed in July 2007. Ferry director Patrick Ryan pleaded guilty to negligent manslaughter and was sentenced to 1 year and 1 day in federal prison. Investigators found that Ryan did not enforce a rule requiring two pilots to be in the wheelhouse when the ferry was to dock.

Settlements

As of earlier this year, the city had paid settlements of more than $67 million to 162 victims who sued New York City after the crash, a total that included 11 wrongful-death lawsuits. One additional case went to trial: James McMillan Jr., a paraplegic due to the crash, received $18.3 million. Several cases remain unresolved.

The repair

After more than $8 million in repairs to both the ferry and the pier, the Barberi began operating again in July 2004. A plaque honoring those who died was placed on the ferry when it went back into operation.

The second crash

Yesterday morning the same ferry crashed into a pier as it neared the St. George terminal. Officials said they believe the ferry had a mechanical failure. About 250 passengers were on board, and as many as 37 people were hurt.

 

Ferry stats: The Andrew H. Barberi

 

When built: 1981

Dimensions: 310 feet long; 70 feet wide;

3,300 tons

Capacity: The Barberi can carry up to

6,000 passengers.

Crossings per day:

Four ferries make a total of 110 trips daily on weekdays. On weekends, three vessels make a total of 64 trips daily.

Sources: News reports, city Department of Transportation