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  • Staten Island Ferry-bizarre

    10 Dead, 34 Hurt in Staten I. Ferry Crash

    The Associated Press
    Wednesday, October 15, 2003; 9:19 PM

    NEW YORK - A Staten Island ferry slammed into a pier as it was docking Wednesday, killing at least 10 people, tearing off victims' limbs and sending passengers leaping into the water, officials said. At least 34 people were injured.

    The ferry pilot, responsible for docking the vessel, fled the scene immediately after the crash, went to his Staten Island home and attempted suicide, a police official said on the condition of anonymity. The pilot was rushed to the same hospital as many of the victims and underwent surgery.

    The 310-foot ferry, carrying about 1,500 passengers, plowed into the enormous wooden pilings on the Staten Island end of its run from Manhattan, reducing the front of the mighty boat to a mass of shattered planks, broken glass and twisted steel.

    The crash happened on a windswept afternoon, with gusts over 40 mph and the water in New York Harbor very choppy.

    "Everyone just jumped for their lives," rider Bob Carroll told TV station NY1. "It was like an absolute horror. ... The whole side of the boat looked like an opener on a can."

    Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at least 10 people were killed and 34 injured, making it New York's worst mass-transit accident in nearly a century. Some bodies were accidentally counted twice, leading to an initial report by city officials that 14 people were dead.

    "It's a terrible tragedy, people who were on the way home, all of a sudden, taken from us," Bloomberg said at a dockside news conference.

    He said the ferry's crew will be interviewed and tested for drugs and alcohol.

    Firefighters picked their way through the debris aboard the ship, the Andrew J. Barberi, looking for victims, and Coast Guard divers searched the water. At least one body was recovered from the water.

    The cause of the crash was not immediately known, although Bloomberg suggested the heavy wind as a possibility. The National Transportation Safety Board convened an accident investigation team, which will look at the weather, among other possible factors.

    "The ferry was coming too fast," said witness William Gonzalez, who lives in a nearby apartment complex. "They had no control to stop the boat."

    Commuters were trapped in piles of debris aboard the 22-year-old ferry, and victims screamed and dove for cover as metal crunched into wood just before the start of the evening rush hour, tearing girders, splintering planks and ripping a huge hole in the right side of the three-level, bright-orange vessel, which has a capacity of 6,000 passengers.

    "People who were sitting there as the ferry docked were hit by the pilings that came through the side of the boat," the mayor said. The pilings hit on the ferry's main deck, crashing into the windows that ordinarily afford a postcard view of the Statue of Liberty.

    "There were numerous injuries like fractures and lacerations," said Fire Department spokeswoman Maria Lamberti. "There were a couple of people with amputations - legs and arms."

    At Staten Island University Hospital, two people with amputations were among the victims, said spokeswoman Arleen Ryback. Others were suffering from back and spinal injuries, chest pains and hypothermia.

    The ferry pilot was undergoing surgery at the same hospital, said Dr. Pietro Carpenito. The police source said the pilot had slit his wrists and shot himself with a pellet gun before someone at his home called 911 about an hour after the accident.

    Three people were brought to St. Vincent's Hospital with massive trauma, including one amputee. Others there were also suffering from hypothermia, said spokesman Michael Fagan. The water temperature was about 62 degrees.

    The five-mile trip between Staten Island and Manhattan normally takes 25 minutes. A free ride on the Staten Island Ferry is one of the city's most beloved attractions to New Yorkers and tourists alike, giving visitors a Hollywood-style view of lower Manhattan's skyscrapers.

    The seven boats that make up the Staten Island Ferry fleet carry 70,000 commuters a day between Staten Island and lower Manhattan. The boats make 104 daily trips between the two boroughs. The Andrew J. Barberi travels at about 18 mph.

    Service was suspended on all Staten Island ferries after the 3:20 p.m. accident, and was unlikely to resume until Thursday morning.

    The mayor, who was attending the New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox game with the American League pennant on the line, left Yankee Stadium to head to the scene. He boarded the ferry to assess the damage himself.

    Steamboat ferries began operating between Manhattan and Staten Island in 1817. A railroad company ran the ferry from 1884 until 1905, when it was taken over by the city. It is now run by the city Transportation Department. Several accidents have occurred aboard Staten Island ferries over the years.

    A boiler explosion on a ferry killed 104 passengers as it was preparing to leave Manhattan for Staten Island in 1871.

    In 1997, a car plunged off the ferry as it was docking in Staten Island, causing minor injuries to the driver and a deckhand who was knocked overboard by the car.

    In the summer of 1986, a man wielding a sword attacked riders on a ferry, killing two and injuring nine others before he was subdued by a retired police officer.

    New York's worst subway accident occurred in 1918, when a train derailed in Brooklyn, killing 92 people.

    A New York City subway crash in 1991 killed five people and injured more than 140. Federal investigators blamed the motorman's heavy drinking and lack of sleep.

  • #2
    Source: Ferry's Pilot Attempts Suicide, Undergoes Surgery
    Smith's Home Now A Crime Scene

    POSTED: 7:17 p.m. EDT October 15, 2003
    UPDATED: 9:39 p.m. EDT October 15, 2003

    NEW YORK -- Multiple sources told NewsChannel 4 that the ferry's pilot, Assistant Captain Richard Jeffrey Smith, who is either 53 or 54, left the ferry immediately after Wednesday's accident that killed at least 10 and drove to his home in the nearby Westerleigh section of Staten Island.

    There, he reportedly locked himself in the bathroom, slit his wrists and used some sort of low-caliber firearm -- either a pellet or BB gun -- in an attempt to take his own life, according to a police official who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. Smith is responsible for docking the craft.

    Someone in the household called 911, and an ambulance took him to St. Vincent's hospital on Staten Island -- the the same hospital where many of the victims of the accident were taken -- and underwent surgery, said Dr. Pietro Carpenito.

    The Department of Transportation runs the ferries, and a source there told NewsChannel 4 that two captains would normally be in the wheelhouse aboard the Andrew Barberi.

    Smith's home on Margaretta Court is now a crime scene roped off with police tape and surrounded by detectives.

    New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg said all crew members are being interviewed and will be tested for drugs and alcohol.


    • #3
      Yeah, I saw that. And how about the capt. taking off and going home!? That will send up a red flag every time! On Oct 14th last year me and my wife and 4 yo old daughter took a ride on the SIF. Really makes you think.

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      • #4
        NEW YORK (AP) - It was a routine ride on a breezy fall day, just
        25 minutes across New York Harbor. But in the final seconds of the
        trip, with the dock just yards away, disaster struck aboard the
        Staten Island ferry.
        The 300-foot craft, carrying 1,500 people, smashed into the
        thick wooden pilings along the dock Wednesday and opened like a tin
        can. Ten people were killed, three lost limbs and more than 40
        others were injured in the city's worst mass transit accident in at
        least a generation.
        Police were investigating the possibility that the boat's pilot,
        responsible for docking the vessel, might have been asleep at the
        controls, a law enforcement source told The Associated Press.
        The pilot, identified as Richard Smith, bolted the scene,
        fleeing so quickly, the source said, that he left behind his gear
        and his keys. He then broke into his house and twice attempted
        suicide, slitting his wrists and shooting himself with a pellet
        gun, the source said.
        A co-worker told authorities that Smith had been asleep, slumped
        over the controls, the source told the AP.
        Smith underwent surgery at St. Vincent's Hospital, the same
        place where 22 victims - including two with amputations - were
        rushed after the 3:20 p.m. crash. He was being represented by an
        attorney, said police, who obtained a sample of his blood for
        testing. Telephone messages left at his home were not returned.
        Thirty-six people were treated at the scene or were immediately
        taken to hospitals; six others walked away injured and went to
        hospitals later.
        "The scene was total chaos," said passenger Frank Corchado,
        29, of Staten Island, recounting a tableau of horrific sights: a
        decapitated man, a legless woman, a fellow passenger bleeding from
        his eyes.
        "There was a lady without legs, right in the middle of the
        boat," he said. "She was screaming. You ever see anything like
        Corchado said he tried to help as many people as possible get
        out. Witnesses said some jumped into the windswept 62-degree water
        and others ran as the pier chewed up the side of the boat.
        "Most of the people who died were older people, I believe, who
        couldn't move or didn't have enough time to get out of the way,"
        Corchado said.
        Ferry service was immediately shut down, forcing thousands of
        rush hour commuters to head for buses and taxis. Service was to
        resume for the Thursday morning rush, said the Department of
        Transportation, which maintains the fleet of seven vessels.
        Evan Robinson, a musician waiting for a ferry on Staten Island
        on Wednesday, watched as the craft suddenly veered crazily. Two
        other witnesses said the ferry appeared to speed up when it should
        have slowed down for docking.
        "I looked on in disbelief," Robinson said. "I said, `Oh, my
        God, he's going to crash."'
        The cause of the crash officially remained unknown. The National
        Transportation Safety Board convened an accident investigation team
        to lead the onsite inquiry; the team was to examine weather, among
        other factors.
        Winds were gusting up to 40 mph when the accident occurred.
        The ferry's crew was to be interviewed and tested for drugs and
        alcohol, said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The crewmembers referred
        investigators to their union lawyers.
        The tragedy occurred on a day when the city was focused on the
        New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox playoff game. Bloomberg was at the
        game when he heard the news and rushed to Staten Island.
        "People who were on the way home, all of a sudden, taken from
        us," said Bloomberg, who announced the deaths after touring the
        splintered wood, twisted steel and shattered glass aboard the
        Some of the injured were pulled from the rubble by rescue
        workers; one of the dead was found in the water off Staten Island.
        Three victims with missing limbs were rushed to nearby hospitals.
        The victims were seated in the window seats on the front right
        side of the Andrew J. Barberi ferry when it crashed. The towering
        pilings crashed into the ferry, tearing it apart.
        "The ferry was coming too fast," said witness William
        Gonzalez, who lives in a nearby apartment complex. "They had no
        control to stop the boat."
        Passenger Corchado said it felt as if the ferry accelerated as
        it approached land, waking him as he napped on the trip home. He
        ran away from the front of the boat to safety.
        "My soul's killing me a little bit," Corchado said.
        The ferry is among the city's most beloved institutions,
        providing free rides and offering a spectacular view of New York
        Harbor. It carries 70,000 commuters per day between Staten Island
        and lower Manhattan.
        At Staten Island University Hospital, two victims with
        amputations were among those brought in from the ferry, said
        spokeswoman Arleen Ryback. Others were suffering from back and
        spinal injuries, one victim reported chest pains and one had
        Three people were taken to St. Vincent's Hospital with massive
        trauma, including one amputee. Others there were also suffering
        from hypothermia, said spokesman Michael Fagan.
        Associated Press Writers Tom Hays, Steve Strunsky, Michael
        Weissenstein and Larry Neumeister contributed to this report.

        (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
        Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
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        • #5
          Whoa. Did you just say that this captain should go and commit suicide because it would be the honorable thing to do? I hope I read that wrong. The guy is clearly mentally not there anymore, and places the blame on his shoulders, but still killing yourself is extreme.


          • #6
            Originally posted by elswappo
            Whoa. Did you just say that this captain should go and commit suicide because it would be the honorable thing to do? I hope I read that wrong. The guy is clearly mentally not there anymore, and places the blame on his shoulders, but still killing yourself is extreme.
            I read this as that the captain may have, in his own mind, thought suicide as the only honourable thing to do. When persons become mentally unstable due to traumatic circumstances, what might seem to the rest of us as 'extreme', may be perfectly logical to them (at the time). Perfectly rational persons, when extremely overwrought, can do the most bizarre things. That isn't to say that they shouldn't be held responsible, or excused for their actions, but perhaps the circumstances behind their actions should be taken into account.
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            • #7
              This is quite the hot topic around campus (besides the world series), as I go to a maritime academy. There's been a lot of speculation and talk in our marine trans classes and among the deckies about the incident as well as the pilot and his actions. Like Drkblram said, the captain of a passenger vessel is ultimately responsible for everything that happens aboard ship, whether it's his fault or not. After a major allision that results in the death of passengers or crew, the captain is pretty much guaranteed to lose his licence, job, assets, friends, etc... . All of the hard work and training and taking Coastie exams are gone in a matter of moments. I don't know what I'd do if I was ever in that position, but I'm just glad that I'm not a marine trans major. I think I'll just stay down below in my beloved engine room and let the deckies do their thing. My heart goes out to the families of those who were injured and killed and especially to the Captain, pilot and their families.


              • #8
                We can only speculate why he would have attempted suicide. I am sure it will come out eventually. I can sit here and read this and come up with several different scenarios that would fit.

                Let's wait and see...shall we??
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                The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.


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