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January 9, 2013

Ferry strikes NYC dock; 11 seriously injured

(Continued)

NEW YORK — People answering the phone at Seastreak's offices in New Jersey referred questions to a lawyer, who did not immediately return phone messages.

About 330 passengers and crew members were aboard the ferry, which had arrived from Atlantic Highlands, a part of the Jersey Shore still struggling to recover from Superstorm Sandy. Passenger Frank McLaughlin, 46, whose home was filled with 5 feet of water in the storm, said he was thrown forward and wrenched his knee.

"We come in and do this every day and so it just kind of glides in," he said. "It came in hard, and it was just a huge impact as we hit." Some passengers were bloodied when they banged into walls and toppled to the floor, he said.

New York City's transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, said the ferry was coming in at 10 to 12 knots, or about 12 mph, when it collided with one slip and then hit a second.

After the impact, the boat was able to dock normally. Wertz, who saw the crash from the dock, said passengers raced off once the ramp was down.

"I think people just wanted to get the heck off the boat as soon as they could," she said.

Police said the boat's crew passed alcohol breath tests given after the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board said it had sent investigators to the scene.

The Seastreak Wall Street has been in accidents before. Coast Guard records said the ferry hit a cluster of fender piles while docking in 2010, punching a hole in the ship's hull. In 2009, it suffered another tear on the bow after another minor docking collision. No one was injured in either of those mishaps.

The marine industry magazine MarineLog reported in an August article that the ferry's water-jet propulsion system had been replaced with a new system of propellers and rudders to save fuel costs and reduce pollution. The hull was also reworked and the ship made 15 metric tons lighter. At top speed, the ferry travels at around 35 knots, or 40 mph.

Ferry accidents happen every few years in New York. In 2003, 11 people were killed when a Staten Island Ferry crashed into a pier on Staten Island after its pilot passed out at the wheel. Three people were badly hurt and about 40 injured when the same ferry hit the same pier in 2010, because of a mechanical problem.

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