Staten Island Ferry Crash Under Investigation

The <"">Andrew J. Barberi Staten Island Ferry crashed at New York’s St. George Ferry Terminal this weekend. According to, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), said that, based on an initial interview yesterday with the ferry’s chief engineer, “there were no engine alarms prior to the accident,” quoted. From all accounts and preliminary interviews, engine conditions appeared normal.

The ferry, which made headlines for a deadly crash in 2003, was populated with 252 passengers and 28 crew at the time of Saturday’s crash. The NTSB will be interviewing the captain, assistant captain, and some crew today and will be interviewing the other crew, passengers, and the ferry’s propulsion system manufacturer, as well, said According to the Associated Press, some 37 people were reported injured.

The investigation has not revealed a cause for the crash, said the New York Times, but did note that New York City officials are considering mechanical error. Citing New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn, said the AP, mechanical failure appears to be the cause: The ferry’s throttle failed to engage when the ferry prepared to dock. According to Sadik-Khan, this means that the crew could not apply reverse thrust and slow the ferry, said the AP, noting that this does not provide the malfunction’s cause at this point.

The ferry, which is about 3,000 tons and is also 310 feet in length, was sailing at approximately five knots—about 5.8 miles per hour—at the time of the crash, said the AP. Although the crash resulted in serious damage to the vessel’s ramps and deck, and pier ramps were also damaged, the NTSB described the vessel, terminal, and slip damage as minor; the Barberi will be taken out of service, wrote the AP.

In 2003, the Barberi was involved in a deadly crash that caused 11 fatalities, said the AP. The pilot—having been found to have been suffering from extreme fatigue and who was also on painkillers—fainted at the vessel’s wheel, explained the AP. The boat then hit the terminal, also in St. George, when traveling at full speed, said the AP.

The pilot pleaded guilty to both negligent manslaughter and to lying to investigators; he was sentenced to 18 months of prison time, said the AP. The city ferry director was also sentenced to one year of prison time after he pleaded guilty to negligent manslaughter and to admitting that he did not follow a rule that requires two pilots during the docking process, noted the AP.

In 2003 crash was found unlikely to be related to mechanical failure as the ferry passed the needed inspections that would place it back in service, said the AP. Following what the AP described as a multi-million dollar repair, the Barberi was returned to service.

“There’s no relationship whatsoever” between the crashes, said Captain James DeSimone—the ferry’s chief operating officer—adding that, “The two of them shouldn’t be spoken of in the same breath,” quoted the AP.

Meanwhile, another crash in 2009, with a different vessel, but also at a pier at the St. George terminal, involved a ferry losing power and slamming into a pier, which resulted in over one dozen injuries to passengers, said the AP. In that case, the crash was blamed on a transformer failure.

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