New York City Ferry Crash is a Warning for What Could Happen in Washington

Although the final report will likely take a year to complete, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued its preliminary findings on Friday, January 25, 2013. After interviewing witnesses, injured passengers and ferry crew members, a clearer picture is painted of the events leading up to the crash but no cause has been identified. Alcohol and blood tests were negative. The investigation is still ongoing, according to a NTSB spokesperson.

The crash of the 131 foot long SeaStreak Ferry occurred during the morning rush hour in Manhattan. The ferry normally runs between Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey and Lower Manhattan. It was on its second trip of the day after leaving New Jersey around 8:00 a.m. It has the capacity to carry several hundred passengers. There were 326 passengers onboard at the time and 85 were injured, two listed as serious.

Initial reports of the accident estimated the ferry was traveling much faster than determined by the NTSB, although the speed on impact was considerable. After traveling at a speed of 30 knots, or roughly 35 miles per hour, it had slowed to approximately 12 knots or 14 miles per hour upon impact with the dock.

The right hand side (starboard side) struck the pier leaving a huge gash in its side. The captain reportedly had maneuverability problems due to thrust control response, according to the NTSB. One passenger even commented that a ferry employee told her that there had been problems with this very issue prior to the crash. The captain said that the conditions did not give him time to warn the passengers over the public address system or sound a danger signal.

The SeaStreak was built in 2003 and had its main engines replaced in February 2012, along with new controllable pitch propellers and helm controls. It was placed back in service following a USCG inspection on July 24, 2012.

Some comparisons have been made between this accident and one occurring on October 15, 2003, when a Staten Island Ferry struck a maintenance pier at full speed. There were 70 injuries and 11 fatalities in that ferry crash. It was determined that the pilot of that ferry was incapacitated and he pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

An action was filed on January 19, 2013 by the owners of SeaStreak to limit damages to no more than the estimated $7.6 million dollar value of the vessel. An 1851 maritime law limits the liability for injuries or cargo to the value of the vessel.

The passengers and crew members injured in the SeaStreak crash are entitled to be compensated. Passengers are entitled to recover for injuries sustained as a result of the unsafe operation of the ferry or due to a defect onboard that caused an injury, such as a defective railing or foreign substances on the deck. Ferry workers are entitled to recovery under the Jones Act and federal maritime law. Injured persons may recover for lost wages, pain and suffering and medical bills related to their injuries.

If you have been injured as a passenger or worker on a ferry or lost a loved one from working on a ferry, you need to contact a Seattle lawyer experienced in handling maritime cases.

John Merriam & Gordon Webb has over 50 years of combined experience handling a wide variety of maritime claims, including Washington State ferry worker and passenger claims.

Please contact us through our website or call our toll free number at 877.800.1007 for a free consultation.

With our firm, you owe nothing unless we get a settlement for you.

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