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Dozens Hurt, Two Critically, as Ferry Hits Wall Street Dock

By DNAinfo Staff | January 9, 2013 9:26am | Updated on January 9, 2013 5:41pm

DOWNTOWN — A packed commuter ferry slammed into a Downtown dock Wednesday morning, sending dozens of people flying into the air and leaving as many as 57 of them hurt, officials and witnesses said.

Two people were critically injured, according to the Department of Transportation.

The Seastreak ferry was pulling into Pier 11/Wall Street about 8:45 a.m. when it missed its intended slip and slammed into another, slicing its starboard bow, officials said.

The boat, which was carrying 343 passengers, was traveling between 10 and 12 knots, roughly 12 miles per hour, FDNY and NYPD officials said.

"I heard a loud, horrible bang — metal against metal — and glass crashing," said 48-year-old passenger Dale Connone of Rumson, N.J.

"I was wrenched back and forward. It was so fast, it was a blur," said Bill McKenzie, 62, a bond broker from New Jersey who was on his second day back to work in the Financial District after Hurricane Sandy.

He said the ferry was pulling in like normal until the crash, and the crew helped guide passengers off the boat after it happened.

"The people standing on the stairwell, waiting to get off, they were flung forward," McKenzie, who was nursing a bloodied nose, added. "There were bodies flying everywhere.

"You're never prepared for anything like this."

The two people who were critically injured were taken to New York Presbyterian Hospital - Weill Cornell and New York Downtown Hospital, officials said.

Twenty-one patients were taken to New York Downtown and 11 to New York Presbyterian, and all are expected to recover, according to a hospital spokesman.

Six additional passengers were taken to Beth Israel Medical Center, where they were treated and released, a hospital spokesman there said.

All other passengers with minor injuries were taken to hospitals in Brooklyn, according to the FDNY.

The ferry had departed from the Highlands in New Jersey about 8 a.m. and was due in Manhattan 45 minutes later.

It was strewn with bleeding commuters after the crash, some of whom were lying on the ground unable to move, witnesses said.

"It was pretty frightening. It happened so fast," Connone said as he left New York Downtown Hospital after being treated for knee, neck and back injuries. "We were all scared. It was horrible. There was a lot of glass."

Shelia Carson, an attorney for JPMorgan Chase, was treated for breathing problems and neck and shoulder pain after she slammed into a table during the crash.

"It was mass chaos," she said. "It was a terrible scene. People fell everywhere.... People were definitely screaming, yelling for their friends."

Ashley Furman, who was also aboard the ferry at the time of the accident, walked away uninjured but looked dazed and shaken.

"I was standing on the boat facing the bar — we were pulling in like we do every day," said Furman, a 26-year-old from Rumson, N.J. "The next thing I knew, I was 6 feet in the air.

"Everyone was on the floor. There were injured people all over the place," she added. "It was eerily quiet and then there was an announcement to stay put."

Paramedics were on the scene about three minutes later, according to FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano.

The cause of the crash remains unclear. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said police will be working with the United States Coast Guard to investigate the crash.

"Clearly, the boat did not slow down sufficiently," said Joseph Bruno, commissioner of the city's Office of Emergency Management.

Breathalyzer tests for the boat's five crew members, including the captain, came back negative, said Paul Browne, the NYPD's deputy commissioner of public information.

An 11-member team from the National Transportation Safety Board will visit New York for up to a week to investigate, according to the board's head, Robert Sumwalt.

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

Seastreak has a long history of safety problems, documents and reports show.

The company issued a statement Wednesday saying its "thoughts and prayers are with those that were injured."

Seastreak's 5:55 p.m. and 6:10 p.m. Wednesday ferries were canceled, according to the company's website.

Seastreak is offering free transportation to New York for friends and relatives of those who were hurt, either by boat or by car service, the company said. Those who need transportation can call 1-800-BOATRIDE.

The southern portion of Pier 11, where the crash occurred, will remain closed at least through the day, officials said.