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NTSB: Ferry in NYC crash has damaged propeller

Emergency personnel at scene of a ferry accident

Emergency personnel at scene of a ferry accident in lower Manhattan Wednesday morning. (Jan. 9, 2012) Credit: C.S. Muncy

An underwater examination of the ferry that crashed into a dock last week in lower Manhattan, injuring dozens, showed the vessel had a damaged propeller on the left side, according to investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board.

The Army Corps of Engineers, at the request of crash investigators, will conduct an underwater survey that searches for any "obstructions" to the ferry's approach to South Street Seaport's Pier 11.

That's where the Seastreak Wall Street ferry slammed into the pier, jostling passengers, the NTSB said Thursday

About 80 passengers were treated for injuries, including two people who were listed as critically injured after the crash.

NTSB investigators also said they had contacted 25 of the injured passengers and interviewed 13 about what they witnessed onboard. More interviews are expected.

The company that manufactured the "pitch propellers," which control the ferry's ability to slow and steer when docking, began meeting with NTSB investigators this week.

The company's workers will conduct tests on the Seastreak's propulsion system controls.

Last year, the ferry had new engines and new controllable pitch propellers installed.

The changes reduced the vessel's overall weight and reduced the top speed from 38 knots to 35 knots, the NTSB said.

The captain of the high-speed ferry told federal investigators that his attempts to slow the boat were foiled by mechanical failure.

Jason Reimer, 36, who has 17 years' experience working on ferries, including 12 as a captain, was at the controls of the ship and said he tried three times to slow the ferry by reversing its thrusters.

Reimer said last week that both of the ferry's diesel engines stopped working at one point, but he still had the ability to steer, investigators said.

Investigators continue to conduct testing and review the data to determine what, if any, impact the modifications may have had on the Seastreak Wall Street's performance and response, the NTSB said.

Investigators talked with the Coast Guard personnel who inspected the vessel in July 2012, after the modifications were completed.

The inspectors said they found no problems with the propulsion system's changes.They issued a temporary certificate of inspection, certifying that the vessel met federal regulations. The certificate also sets forth the conditions, routes and staffing under which a vessel may operate, the NTSB said.

Investigators were able to download alarm and data stored on engine control modules in each of the ferry's two engine compartments. They also retrieved video from several onboard cameras, which is being analyzed, and tested the Seastreak Wall Street's steering systems last week, which came back satisfactory, the NTSB said.

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