Mechanical Failure May Have Caused Ferry Crash, Sources Say

By Murray Weiss and Julie Shapiro  on January 9, 2013 6:48pm

DOWNTOWN — Mechanical failure may have caused the commuter ferry crash that left 57 people hurt, two critically, in Lower Manhattan Wednesday morning, sources said.

A preliminary investigation revealed that the Seastreak ferry's machinery malfunctioned as the boat approached Pier 11/Wall Street about 8:45 a.m., sending the ferry slamming into the side of a slip, sources said.

Sources did not disclose which part of the boat's machinery broke or malfunctioned.

The ferry's engines were replaced last summer to reduce their emissions, said James Barker, chairman of Seastreak, who described the boat as "the greenest ferry in operation." 

"We are simply shocked and stunned that this happened," Barker said. "We are very sorry that this accident occurred."

Dozens of injured commuters were taken to area hospitals after the crash, which sent passengers flying into the air and then crashing back down.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent 11 investigators to the scene, where they will look into the boat's operations, the crew, regulatory compliance and maintenance, said Robert Sumwalt, an NTSB board member.

The investigation will take five to seven days, Sumwalt said.

“We intend to interview the crew tomorrow to get their firsthand account," Sumwalt said Wednesday afternoon.

The captain, identified by sources as Jason Reimer, has been working for Seastreak for 10 years, Barker said.

“He’s a fine captain," said Barker, who added that he believed the captain had never been in a crash before. "He was on the bridge at the time of the accident.”

Seastreak has a history of accidents and lawsuits, but Barker declined to comment on previous incidents.

Seastreak service was scheduled to resume Thursday morning, using three boats of the same type that crashed and two smaller ones, Barker said.

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