Officials: 85 injured, 2 critical, in NYC boat crash

Emergency personnel at the scene of a

Emergency personnel at the scene of a ferry accident in lower Manhattan this morning. (C.S. Muncy) (Credit: Emergency personnel at the scene of a ferry accident in lower Manhattan this morning. (C.S. Muncy))

Updated 8:20 p.m.: A high-speed commuter ferry carrying more than 300 people slammed into a boat slip in lower Manhattan during the morning rush Wednesday, injuring at least 85 passengers, including two critically.

Riders on the Seastreak Wall Street described a jolt, bodies falling and flying across each other, broken windows and blood. Electronic devices, coffee cups and other items were tossed around the interior.

The National Transportation Safety Board team will spend the next five to seven days investigating the crash, board member Robert L. Sumwalt said.

Breath alcohol tests of the captain and crew were negative, James Barker Jr., president of Seastreak, said.

Sumwalt said he believed the boat does not have a voice and data recorder but its "sophisticated electronics" may allow investigators to retrieve data, such as the boat's speed.

Investigators also will look at whether the vessel's propulsion system, retrofitted about a year ago, played a role in the accident.

The AP reported that officials identified the captain as Jason Reimer, who had about 10 years' experience with the company. Reimer is a New Jersey resident, the AP reported, citing records.

Dozens of bloodied and dazed passengers were treated after the 8:43 a.m. crash and placed on stretchers along a dock near the South Street Seaport. Many reported head injuries from being thrown about the boat that hit the dock at a speed estimated to be about 12 mph.

Passenger Brett Cebulash, 50, of Sandy Hook, N.J., was on the top level of the boat when it bounced against the dock, the impact causing a man sitting across from him to fly "from his seat" onto "my lap," he said.

The New York City Office of Emergency Management last night reported a total of 85 people injured in the crash.

Eleven people were seriously hurt, but none of the injuries were life threatening, fire officials said. One of the critically injured passengers was taken to New York Presbyterian Cornell Hospital and the other to New York Downtown Hospital, officials said without identifying the passengers.

Jacqueline Wegner, of Highlands, N.J., said that when passengers began to emerge from the ferry, "There was lots of blood. I saw a man with a broken hand."

"We want to find out why those injuries occurred," Sumwalt said.

***

3rd major wreck in decade

Wednesday's ferry crash is the third major accident on a city commuter water line in less than 10 years.

On Oct. 15, 2003, the Staten Island Ferry crashed into the pier at St. George, killing 11 and injuring 71. Richard Smith, the pilot who admitted taking painkillers before piloting the boat, was convicted of manslaughter.

On May 8, 2010, the ferry crashed into the same stop and injured 37. No one was criminally charged.

(Ivan Pereira)

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