A run-of-the-mill morning commute turned into chaos for hundreds of passengers aboard a ferry that crashed into a dock in lower Manhattan this morning, injuring 57 with two people in critical condition.
There were 326 passengers and five crew members on board. The collision occurred 45 minutes after the ferry left New Jersey. The most critically injured passenger, who suffered head trauma, fell down a staircase and is out of surgery and stabilized, according to a NYPD spokesman, Paul Browne. The other critically injured passenger also suffered head trauma. One crew member was hurt.
There are hundreds of government and privately owned boats and ferries crisscrossing the Hudson River every day between Manhattan, New Jersey, Staten Island and Long Island, generally providing a faster — and more expensive — commute than cars, trains or buses. The New York Harbor is the world’s third-busiest in ferry traffic.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg was on the scene today, along with a host of police and emergency personnel.
Coming into Manhattan’s financial district at around 8:50 a.m., the ferry hit Pier 11, causing a gash in the starboard bow about 3 feet above the water line, said Charles Rowe, a spokesman for the Coast Guard, which is leading the investigation of the crash.
Janet Sadik-Khan, the city commissioner of the Department of Transportation, said during a news briefing that “basically, it was a hard landing.”
She said the pier would reopen at midday Wednesday.
Passengers were shocked as their normal commute was transformed just before they expected the boat to dock. Many of them were lining up for departure and were tossed around when the boat collided at about 12 mph.
“We just tumbled on top of each other. I got thrown into everybody else. … People were hysterical, crying,” Ellen Foran, 57, of Neptune City, N.J., told the Associated Press.
The five crew members on board were tested for drugs and alcohol. Police said all five had passed Breathalyzer tests.
James Barker, the president of the ferry company, Seastreak, told NBC that the ferry struck a loading barge that it was passing while trying to dock.
“There was a jolt when that occurred, throwing the people forward into their seats and the walls,” Barker told the station.
While ferry accidents are rare, they do occur. In the most memorable and catastrophic in recent memory, the Staten Island Ferry crashed into a pier in 2003 after an assistant captain passed out at the controls. The crash killed 11 people and injured 70. The pilot, who had taken painkillers the night before, pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Investigators also faulted training and enforcement of safety rules.
In May 2010, another Staten Island Ferry crashed and injured dozens of people.