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October 15th, 2003, 10:07 PM
Staten Island Ferry Accident Leaves 10 Dead
At Least 34 People Are Injured

NEW YORK (Oct. 15) - A Staten Island ferry slammed into a pier as it was docking Wednesday, killing at least 10 people, tearing off some victims' limbs and reducing the front of the mighty vessel to a shattered mass of wood, glass and steel. 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 by slitting his wrists and shooting himself with a pellet gun, 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, ripping a giant hole in the right side of the three-level, bright-orange vessel.

''There was a lady without legs, right in the middle of the boat,'' said ferry passenger Frank Corchado, 29. ''She was screaming. You ever see anything like that?''

Corchado said it felt as if the ferry accelerated as it approached land, waking him as he napped on the trip home to Staten Island. He ran away from the front of the boat to safety, but saw others who weren't as lucky - six people dead, including one who had been decapitated.

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.

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

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.

''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 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 tearing a huge hole in the right side of the boat, 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, identified as Richard Smith, was undergoing surgery at the same hospital, said Dr. Pietro Carpenito. The police source said he was taken to the hospital after 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.

10-15-03 2152EDT

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. All active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

October 15th, 2003, 10:40 PM
October 16, 2003

10 Die as Staten Island Ferry Slams Into Pier


Slide Show (http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2003/10/16/nyregion/20031016ferry.slideshow_1.html)


A Staten Island ferry moving at a rapid clip in gusting winds crashed into a pier at the St. George ferry terminal yesterday afternoon, killing 10 people and injuring dozens of others as the concrete and wood pier sliced through its side, mowing down tourists and commuters.

The exact cause of the 3:20 p.m. accident was not clear last night. But law enforcement officials said the ferry's pilot fled the scene to his home in the Westerleigh neighborhood of Staten Island, barricaded himself in a bathroom, slit his wrists and shot himself twice in the chest with a powerful pellet gun.

The pilot, identified by city officials as Assistant Capt. Richard Smith, survived and was in critical condition at a local hospital, where detectives were waiting to interview him. Mr. Smith was in charge of the boat when it neared the Staten Island terminal at a high speed, and his captain noticed that the ferry was off course, according to one police official. The captain tried to get control of the boat, the official said, but it slammed into a concrete maintenance pier about 400 feet from the nearest ferry slip.

Investigators were trying to determine last night whether Mr. Smith had been drinking or taking drugs, had fallen asleep or was perhaps incapacitated as a result of a medical condition, a law enforcement official said.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, speaking at a news conference, called the collision a tragic accident, but declined to speculate on the cause. He said all the crew members were alive and were being questioned. Ferry service was suspended indefinitely with the possibility of resuming by morning.

"People who were on their way home, all of a sudden taken from us," Mr. Bloomberg said of the collision. "Our prayers are for their families and for those who were injured."

The accident occurred as the 3 p.m. ferry from Manhattan approached the terminal near the end of the 25-minute trip. Some passengers said later that they had noticed that the ferry appeared to be traveling at an unusually high speed, was approaching at an odd angle and had not slowed down normally as it neared the shore.

It then missed its pier and slammed into the maintenance pier. Passengers compared what ensued to a scene from "Titanic." They said there was an ominous grinding sound followed by a bang, like an explosion. Then the pier, like an iceberg, sheared into the side of the main deck, tearing it open.

With no announcements or instructions by the boat's crew, passengers began fleeing in confusion and panic. "The beams are coming directly at you, and the side of the boat is disappearing," said Robert Carroll, a lawyer for the state court system, who was on board. "They're ripping up steel, glass, chairs. People were falling. At one point I was in a pile, and I just got up and kept running. It kept coming and coming. If you didn't keep running, you were dead."

Francis Johnson, visiting New York City from Pensacola, Fla., said, "There was a man in the water clinging to the piling. People started grabbing life jackets. It was very choppy out there, very windy out there. There was all kinds of flotsam and jetsam in the water. It was chaos. The whole time we were not given any instructions."

Sean Johnson, a 26-year-old construction worker, said: "I ran to the back of the boat. I was going to jump in the water but some guy grabbed me and said, stop. The boat had finally come to a stop."

Some bodies had been sliced in half, one law enforcement official said. Two people were decapitated; many suffered amputations. Part of the main deck's ceiling collapsed. Debris rained down on passengers as they fled for the stairs to other decks.

Though there were conflicting accounts of how the accident happened, the police official who described the moments before the crash said that the ferry's captain had noticed that the boat was off course and yelled to Mr. Smith, who did not respond. The captain then tried to take control, the official said.

As pandemonium reigned on board, the boat was moved away from the damaged pier with the help of tugboats. After 20 minutes, it docked in a ferry slip and passengers were able to leave.

The ferry, which went into service in 1981 and is named after a high school football coach, has a capacity of 6,000 people. It was unclear yesterday how many were on board. "The boat normally carries about 1,500 and we think it was fully populated," Mr. Bloomberg said. "That's probably a good estimate. We don't have an exact count and never will really."

Firefighters and rescue workers swarmed onto the boat and began digging out bodies. Scuba divers plunged into the water to search for survivors. The National Transportation Safety Board, which is heading the investigation, dispatched a team of marine investigators led by a former cargo ship captain.

One body was pulled from the harbor.

Last night, administrators at St. Vincent's Staten Island Hospital said 22 people were being treated for injuries that ranged from bruises to amputations. Five people were admitted to the hospital and three underwent surgery, including Mr. Smith. Others were treated at Staten Island University Hospital.

About 100 people gathered at a family assistance center set up in a municipal office building on Stuyvesant Place behind Staten Island Borough Hall. Staffed by grief counselors and clergy members, the center offered information from the police and hospitals about the identities of the dead.

Some 1,500 calls poured in to the city's 311 information number from people seeking information about victims and survivors, said Edward Skyler, a spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg. "The mayor's main concern is that people who have lost loved ones be contacted quickly and sensibly," he said.

United States Representative Vito J. Fossella, who represents Staten Island, said: "It is a gut-wrenching day for the people of Staten Island. Every household on Staten Island has a family member or knows someone who takes the ferry every day. It is something everyone can relate to."

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said: "My heart goes out to the families and loved ones of the victims of this terrible tragedy. While all of us in New York are shocked to learn of the crash, we know that the community of Staten Island has been especially hard hit."

Back on the Manhattan end of the ferry line, police officers and transportation workers with bullhorns turned thousands of commuters away from the ferry terminal. They pointed them toward express buses and the R train to Brooklyn with connections to shuttle bus service to Staten Island.

On most weekdays, five boats carry some 65,000 passengers the 5.2 miles between Manhattan and Staten Island in a total of 104 trips. Serious accidents are rare. But in 1978, 173 people were treated at hospitals after a ferry crashed into a seawall at the tip of Lower Manhattan in thick fog.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

October 16th, 2003, 02:56 AM
October 16, 2003


New York City's Worst Transit Disasters


The worst accident on a Staten Island ferry was the explosion of a boiler on the Westfield II, which killed 125 passengers as the boat departed South Ferry on July 30, 1871.

Yesterday's ferry accident appeared to be one of the most deadly accidents in the city's public transportation system. Ninety-seven people were killed in a 1918 subway accident, and in 1991, five people were killed in a subway crash caused by a drunken motorman.

In the 1991 accident, more than 200 people were injured in the crash at Union Square Station on Aug. 28.

The motorman admitted that he had been drinking all day and was sentenced to up to 15 years in jail for manslaughter.

Eight months earlier, on Dec. 28, 1990, two people were killed and 188 were injured in an electrical fire in the tunnel near Clark Street in Brooklyn.

On July 3, 1981, a motorman was killed and more than 135 passengers were hurt when an IRT train crashed into the rear of a train stopped in a Brooklyn tunnel.

The worst subway disaster in the city's history occurred on Nov. 1, 1918, when a derailment killed 97 people in Brooklyn. The driver was a train dispatcher filling in for striking motormen.

Until Sept. 11, 2001, the single worst disaster in the city's history was the wreck of the General Slocum, an excursion vessel that caught fire, killing at least 1,021 people.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

October 16th, 2003, 01:15 PM
PS: Here's a graphic from NY Newsday on how this accident happened. Be advised that the picture isn't pretty. :


October 18th, 2003, 01:00 AM
October 18, 2003

The Daily, Death-Defying Commute


The gruesome crash of the Staten Island ferry on Wednesday came as a shock. How could one of those lumbering ferry boats come to grief on a routine afternoon trip in a harbor that seems all but empty? But it was hardly unprecedented. As we tend to forget nowadays, New York was born a harbor town, and our waterways have historically been fraught with peril, even for commuters.

The most spectacular maritime disaster was the fire on the General Slocum, which killed more New Yorkers than any catastrophe before 9/11 and which even changed the human geography of the city. Hired as an excursion boat for the German-American parishioners of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in the East Village, the Slocum caught fire shortly after leaving its East River dock on June 15, 1904. The ship's fire hoses and life jackets were rotten; by the time the captain was able to run the ship onto the rocks of Hell's Gate, it was in flames.

Within 15 minutes, 1,021 of the 1,331 passengers died, most of them women and children. The disaster so devastated the remaining German immigrants in the East Village that they moved en masse to Yorkville on the Upper East Side. The General Slocum fire was reported around the world, and is even mentioned in James Joyce's "Ulysses," which takes place over the course of the following day.

But for decades before that disaster drew global attention, New Yorkers had subjected themselves to daily terrors on the Hudson River. Robert Fulton had put the world's first real steamboat, the Clermont, on the river in 1807; by the 1820's the robber barons Cornelius Vanderbilt, Daniel Drew and George Law were in a cutthroat competition for travelers between Albany and Manhattan's West Side docks. Fares plummeted to 50 cents from $7, and the steamboats became floating palaces more than 200 feet long and festooned with gilded bows and Corinthian columns. Under crystal chandeliers and rococo ceilings, passengers feasted on beefsteak.

But the ships were also floating deathtraps. Rival owners tried to lure passengers by racing their boats against each other an incredibly dangerous endeavor in an age of iron boilers. The competitions were so intense at times that the crews would even chop up the fine furniture and woodwork for fuel. This resulted in the predictable disasters. The boilers of the Aetna and the General Jackson exploded, killing scores. In 1845, the Swallow ran aground on a small island while racing two other steamers, taking a dozen lives. Even the longtime river champion, the Reindeer, met its end in what the historian Carl Carmer described as "a holocaust of bursting boilers, flaming woodwork, and shrieking, dying passengers."

Perhaps the ultimate race began on the morning of July 28, 1852, when the Henry Clay and the Armenia set off from Albany, while runners on the riverfront cried out "Hurrah for Harry of the West!" With the Henry Clay's captain writhing below decks with food poisoning, its owner, Thomas Collyer, pushed it relentlessly in the Armenia's wake. Both boats rushed through their scheduled stops or skipped them altogether. A number of fearful passengers got off while they could, but, amazingly, most decided to remain.

Finally, five miles above Kingston, the Henry Clay surged into the lead, cutting across the Armenia's bow and splintering its larboard woodwork while the passengers cheered. But as the ship steamed past Yonkers, a canvas covering above one of its overworked boilers caught fire; the high winds on the river that day quickly fanned the flames into an inferno.

Before it was over, some 80 passengers were dead; many drowned in just a few feet of water. Among the victims were a former mayor of New York, Nathaniel Hawthorne's sister and the landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing. Nearly forgotten today, Downing was a national avatar of taste a sort of cross between Martha Stewart and Frank O. Gehry and was the likely choice to design Central Park. Instead, that task fell to two men he had mentored and introduced, Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux.

Wednesday's calamity was of course not due to any such systematic recklessness. Because of great advances in technology and yes, government regulations, most of our commuter trips today are made in utter safety. It does, however, serve to remind us how sudden death can still be, even on a routine trip across our quiet harbor.

Kevin Baker is author of the historical novels "Dreamland'' and "Paradise Alley.''

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

October 18th, 2003, 09:49 PM
October 19, 2003


Aboard That Most Mellow of Mass Transit


Staten Islanders don't love their ferry because it is an icon. While they take pride in its stately glide across the harbor and its habit of steering photogenically past the towers of Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty's skirts, according to a survey of riders, it is the ferry's intimacy and invitation to reverie that they truly embrace.

Many people may wonder why the passengers on the Andrew J. Barberi last week didn't notice something was wrong until it was too late. But as the survey reveals and as regular riders know, the ferry, more than other forms of mass transit, can lull people into letting the world slip away.

The poll, conducted several years ago, is based on responses from 350 riders. Tamara Coombs, a member of the St. George Civic Association, which sponsored the survey with an eye toward persuading the city to improve ferry service, was surprised to learn how many commuters regard the trip as a 25-minute retreat from daily life.

"People use it to eat, read, meditate, plan," she said. "A group of nuns said they prayed. A man used his rides to write a book over five years in half-hour segments. And of course, some women go the ladies' room and do a complete makeover."

In the morning, some doors to the women's room are left open, revealing dozens of women sitting and standing in ranks, like Napoleonic infantrymen, in front of a roomwide mirror as they thicken their lashes and dab on foundation. The custom was the subject of a documentary by Katja Esson, a German filmmaker who lives in New York. The film, called "Ferry Tales" and released this year, was shown at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center.

You do not see women primping in a powder room on a subway, bus or train. Such a scene is made possible by the ferry's smooth ride, its spaciousness and its feeling of detachment because it is waterborne and makes no stops en route.

Dan Icolari, who rode the ferry only an hour before the Barberi crashed, found the trip typically serene. "The sky and the sun and the waves,'' he said, "they lulled me into a daydream."

The boats, as Ms. Coombs noted, are a kind of floating public space. "There are places for social interaction, places for watching people walk by, and places to be by yourself,'' she said. Indeed, on just about any trip, you can see the brooding commuter sipping a beer, well-dressed women musing over a law brief or some knitting, a group of Polish maids gossiping as they ride out to clean homes on the North Shore.

For death to rend such interludes was, for ferry riders, a shock that could hardly be more complete.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

October 20th, 2003, 03:49 AM
October 20, 2003


On the Ferry, and Waiting for Answers


IT was pretty much back to normal on the Staten Island ferries yesterday. Kids in shiny baseball jackets argued about the Series; parents lined up at the snack counter to buy their children glazed doughnuts; tourists gazed, transfixed, at the Statue of Liberty, as did the occasional otherwise jaded New Yorker because the city's special beauty never gets old.

So, yes, it was back to normal, or so it seemed, until the ferry John F. Kennedy approached the dock in Staten Island, and a number of passengers who had been standing outside on the deck moved back a few feet as if responding to a silent signal, then looked at one another sheepishly.

"I'm a little iffy," said Melissa Dulcio, a waitress, fluttering her right hand to indicate shakiness.

Some passengers were fatalistic, some accusatory, some forgiving. But it seemed yesterday as though nobody riding across New York Harbor was uninformed about the accident on Wednesday, when a ferryboat that had failed to slow as it approached Staten Island overshot its terminal and hit a maintenance pier. Ten people were killed, scores were injured.

The horrifying details were well known on board the ferry yesterday, by everyone from the just-arrived visitor from County Mayo to the Staten Island native who has been riding the ferries for 17 years.

The accident has entered that especially awful chapter of city lore reserved for infamous disasters the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to name just two. And, as in each of those cases, the public wants answers so that maybe the next tragedy waiting to happen will not.

"Come on, how can there not have been somebody who realized, `Hey, we're about to dock, and ohmigod, we should be slowing down, but we're flying?' " asked William Cincola, a Staten Islander and a clerk at the New York Stock Exchange. "That dude should never have been there by himself."

He was referring to the pilot of the doomed ferry, Assistant Capt. Richard J. Smith, who either passed out or somehow lost control of the boat; he tried to kill himself after the crash and remains hospitalized, officials said. According to officials knowledgeable about the crash investigation, the ferry's ranking officer, Capt. Michael J. Gansas, was apparently not in the pilot house as the ferry approached the dock, arriving too late to prevent the crash. He is expected to be questioned by federal investigators tomorrow.

City rules are said to require both the captain and assistant captain to be at the helm when docking, though the language of the rules has not been made public nor is it known if they are routinely enforced.

Testimony from a lawsuit involving a 2001 ferry incident suggests that life in the pilot house, a glass-enclosed room about 8 feet wide and 10 feet long atop each ferry, is informal and governed by custom. In the 2001 case, a British tourist sued the city and got an undisclosed settlement for injuries she suffered when a ferry made a rough landing in Manhattan.

Ferry rides are overwhelmingly safe, but these two accidents have raised some serious questions, key among them whether there is a reliable backup system if the pilot is incapacitated.

Subways have a "deadman feature": The train moves only when its operator applies pressure on the throttle. If the operator faints, the train stops. There is no equivalent for the city's ferries, which can carry 6,000 people in rush hour. Passengers have reported that alarms did not go off and that there was no instruction coming over the public address system. If so, why?

IRIS WEINSHALL, the city's transportation commissioner, said her department could not release the ferry rules and regulations because they are part of the investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. But that investigation could take months. Nobody is going to wait, especially not the families of the dead and injured.

Ms. Weinshall asks the public and the news media to resist speculating and focus on helping the victims. So far, the office of Staten Island's borough president, James P. Molinaro, is raising money through a nonprofit corporation, and Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum and the Bloomberg administration are helping get insurance coverage for the injured who are uninsured.

The commissioner's frustration is understandable. But so is the frustration of those who want to know sooner rather than later what went wrong. In New York, with its dependency on mass transit, "You're putting yourself in someone else's hands a lot," said Kendra Jimenez, a hairstylist from Brooklyn who was on the ferry yesterday on her way to her father's home. "It makes you think."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

October 22nd, 2003, 11:27 PM
October 23, 2003


Latecomer on Openness in Staten Island Ferry Crash


IT took longer than New Yorkers would have liked, but at least the mayor and his appointees have recognized the public's need for information about last week's deadly crash of a Staten Island ferry and finally released the city's regulations for operating ferries.

The operating manual is a crucial document, because its language is demonstrably broad, confirming as was widely speculated after the accident that ferry crews are guided more by custom than by written procedures.

Until now, that was not considered a problem. The ferries have been operating for 98 years, they carry 18 million people a year, and while they have had accidents, none had resulted in a fatality. There was no obvious reason for city officials to worry about the safety of ferryboats.

Then, last Wednesday, the ferry Andrew J. Barberi missed its berth and careered into a service pier near St. George Terminal on Staten Island, killing 10 passengers and injuring scores more. The assistant captain, Richard J. Smith, somehow lost control. The boat had no known mechanical failures but did not slow down, as ferries must, as it approached the ferry slip. That posed the question of who or what was the fail-safe system.

Subways are built to come to an emergency stop if an operator is incapacitated and can no longer push down on the throttle. But ferries like the Barberi weigh 3,300 tons and are 310 feet long. Ferry fail-safes are not mechanical but human: another pilot.

On the Barberi, it was Capt. Michael J. Gansas, who was suspended yesterday by Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall for refusing to cooperate in city and federal investigations. Captain Gansas, facing dismissal, has yet to answer subpoenas or news inquiries, citing medical problems stemming from the accident.

The central question is his whereabouts whether he was in the pilothouse and if not, why not. Because the city regulations are vague on many points, but do state flatly that when a ferry is docking "the captain will be in the in-shore pilot house insuring the aprons and bridge are in the correct position to receive the boat, and the slip is in otherwise safe condition to dock." In other words, if the assistant captain is at the controls, the captain must also be present; there is no language requiring the reverse, and no language saying that both must be in the pilothouse during docking.

Those are just two ambiguities. Another is a regulation giving the captain wide latitude during an emergency. When issuing new ferry safety rules yesterday, Ms. Weinshall said she interpreted the procedures to require the presence of both the captain and assistant captain in the pilothouse during docking.

THEORIES about procedures on ferries circulated for days after the accident, inevitably, fueled by the fact that the Department of Transportation would not release the rules until Monday five days after the accident citing the investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. Withholding information may well have had the very impact Ms. Weinshall and others deplored encouraging speculation.

As city officials have since pointed out, this was a crisis atmosphere. And in crises, government's fondness for secrecy has a way of surfacing even when the government favors openness, as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's administration generally does.

In contrast to Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who made a near sport of withholding information and defending his position in court (often unsuccessfully), Mr. Bloomberg has made a point of supporting the free flow of information.

But given a chance, that secrecy card has a way of popping to the top of the governmental deck. "To say this was a fast-moving issue is obvious," said one mayoral adviser. "Everyone was very skittish, nobody knew what the law was, within 24 hours there were all sorts of investigations, nobody knew what to do and the Transportation Department said they had to talk to lawyers."

And they must have put secrecy and confidentiality ahead of First Amendment rights as the administration did when it would not let antiwar protesters march last spring, or when the Police Department questioned some demonstrators about their political activities.

The administration subsequently reversed its policies or discontinued them in the face of criticism. And maybe after some second-thinking at City Hall. As some city officials acknowledged yesterday, the manual of ferry regulations was always a public document. Emphasis on the public.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

October 25th, 2003, 12:48 AM
October 25, 2003

Ferry Crash Raises Issue: Were Rules Enforced?


This article was reported by Randy Kennedy, Mike McIntire, William K. Rashbaum and Michelle O'Donnell and was written by Mr. Kennedy.

Ellen G. Engleman, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, inspecting damage to the Andrew J. Barberi, a Staten Island ferry that rammed a pier last week, killing 10 passengers.

Since at least the 1950's, the Staten Island ferry has been governed by a detailed set of rules written to ensure the safety of one of the nation's busiest waterborne commuter routes.

But an examination of safety records and interviews with ferry employees and city and Coast Guard officials paint a picture of a system in which tradition and habit often trump formal procedure, where oversight is often limited and where even determining the safe number of passengers taken on any given trip is left to the visual estimates of deckhands.

The ferry carries 18 million riders a year and has been, for almost a century, one of the safest ways to travel in New York City. But after one of its biggest boats rammed at almost full speed into a pier last week, killing 10 passengers, serious questions have been raised about how vigorously its operations are monitored and its rules are enforced.

Documents from the Coast Guard, which has oversight responsibility, show that its inspections tend to focus more on the physical condition of the ferries than on the performance of crew members. And the occasional recommendations that the Coast Guard has made relating to passenger safety appear, at least in some instances, to have gone unaddressed by the city.

Indeed, in one 1998 report after an accident involving a ferry that left passengers injured, Coast Guard officials concluded that crew members and city officials disregarded suggestions to enhance warning systems intended to protect passengers in the event of a collision. According to the report, the "overriding opinion" of the ferry operators "is that passengers will ignore all warnings, so why bother trying to improve them."

"Apparently then," the report concludes, "these occasional injuries will be considered part of the cost of operating."

The magnitude of the accident last week, on the Andrew J. Barberi, could ultimately lead to major changes in New York's ferry operations. The National Transportation Safety Board, the lead agency investigating the case, has said it will examine all the policies and procedures that could have played a role in the crash.

In several important respects, New York City's ferry operations contrast with those of Washington State, which runs the only ferry system larger than New York's. Unlike New York, for example, Washington's entire ferry fleet is equipped with satellite navigation devices that help determine the speed of the boats New York ferry captains can only guess how fast they are going. Also, in New York no count is kept of the number of passengers on board and no regular announcements are made regarding emergency procedures, as is done in Washington State.

Iris Weinshall, the commissioner of the Department of Transportation, defended the safety record of the ferries, pointing out that there had been no major accidents for 98 years. But she added that she was now actively exploring whether more safety procedures needed to be developed and enforced.

Last year, the city disbanded a small inspection team whose job was to ensure that ferry employees and other transportation workers followed safety rules and other regulations. City officials say the five-member team, made up of former highway repairers, was dismantled because it was completely ineffective and, especially on the ferry, focused more on dirty floors and improper uniforms than on safety monitoring. The city says that it does not intend to replace the team.

Officials say that the job of ensuring the safe operations of the ferry ultimately falls to port captains, one stationed at the Whitehall terminal in Manhattan and the other at the St. George terminal on Staten Island. The officials said that, among their other duties, the two port captains are supposed to make six crossings a day to observe ferry operations and ensure that rules are being followed.

"We believe that the port captain who is doing this job is really checking on the operations of the ferry," said Ms. Weinshall, adding that the port captains generally had long years of experience on the ferries.

But in the aftermath of the accident, she said the department was considering whether an additional layer of monitoring was needed. "We're looking at everything," she said. "That's one of the questions. Can we have even more of a check, more than the port captain, to have even more oversight of the operations."

A number of current and former ferry workers and supervisors say that the many duties of the port captains leave them little time for ensuring that rules are rigorously followed by the crew on board.

Among these rules is one that requires both the captain and assistant captain, also known as the pilot, to be together inside the pilot house as the boat docks. Whether that regulation was followed has emerged as a focus in the investigation of the crash, in which it appears that the assistant pilot, Richard J. Smith, may have blacked out or fallen asleep and lost control of the boat and that the captain, Michael J. Gansas, may not have been at his proper post. (Yesterday, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn issued a subpoena to compel Captain Gansas to talk to federal authorities.)

A former senior ferry official dismissed the notion that the port captains, who are the day-to-day operational managers of the ferry system, had time aboard the boats to enforce such rules about whether crew members were all at their proper posts.

The official, however, played down the need for any such oversight. "The cadres of professionals that are the officers of the Staten Island Ferry, I would put them up against anyone at Cunard or anywhere else," he said. "They're stone-cold professionals." The former official said that the rule about where captains were to be during docking was often ignored.

"I would be willing to bet that they had to look long and hard to find that in their standard operating procedures," the former official said. "Because it's not a standard operating procedure that's adhered to."

He added, however, that he did not believe the pilot of the boat really needed another officer alongside him at docking, saying that "it would be redundant, and necessary only if someone is going to have a heart attack or some type of episode."

In interviews in the last week with former and current ferry employees, many described how the operations of the boats were largely left to the captains and could vary widely.

A chief engineer with more than two decades of experience described the ferries as virtual fiefs ruled by the captains, who, except for adhering to basic maritime regulations set by the Coast Guard, exercised wide discretion. "Each vessel is like its own little city, and the captain is the mayor," the engineer said. "They have the authority to do whatever they see fit."

The engineer added that, in his experience, two officers were present at docking in the pilot house only during bad weather, when one manned the radar and the other steered the boat.

The Coast Guard's inspection of ferry operations places heavy emphasis on the boats' equipment, and little on the performance and competency of the crew, according to documents and interviews with ferry crew members. In fact, a federal audit of the Coast Guard's ferry safety program three years ago said it did a good job of checking vessels' physical condition and licensing documentation. But the audit itself did not assess how well the Coast Guard monitored the operation of the ferries or the qualifications of crews.

Records of investigations of previous accidents involving Staten Island ferries show that the Coast Guard has repeatedly admonished the city to do a better job of preventing risk of injuries to passengers.

One Coast Guard accident report observed that liability payments to injured passengers did not come from the Transportation Department's budget and that such a situation "seems to weaken any motivation for improvements in safety."

Among the Coast Guard's safety recommendations was one that has direct bearing on the deadly crash involving the Andrew J. Barberi: That two crew members be present in the pilot house to watch for potential problems as the ferry approaches the terminal.

That recommendation followed a September 1998 ferry accident at the Whitehall terminal that injured two passengers, leaving one with a dislocated shoulder. The Coast Guard concluded that a system should be established to give immediate warning to passengers when it appeared that a jolt would occur. Its recommendation suggests that the city's rule requiring the captain to be in pilot house during docking was not being regularly followed.

The Coast Guard said it believed a warning system "could be accomplished without any additional personnel by having the captain who is not driving, or other crew member, watching and ready to sound an alert."

The Barberi accident followed several recent warnings by federal officials that passenger ferries were prime terrorist targets and that ferry operators should increase the number of crew members serving as lookouts. A bulletin issued on Sept. 12 by the Department of Homeland Security advised vessels to provide a vigilant bridge watch while under way and an additional watch stander on deck who would remain in radio contact with the bridge. City officials would not comment on whether those procedures were put into place on the ferries.

One ferry captain who retired in 1990 said that, because of several factors, he believed the quality and performance of ferry officers had declined in the last several years. The captain said that when the harbor was much busier, traversing it in a ferry was something like a game of checkers, with each ferry carefully negotiating the paths of the other vessels. But as traffic waned and radar equipment was installed on the boats, the captain said younger captains became more lax about the crossings, setting a relaxed tone down the chain of command.

"No one was paying attention to operations," he said.

But Ms. Weinshall strongly disagreed that there was a relaxed attitude toward safety among the ferry's operators or a decline in the quality of the crew. She said that in 1997, when the ferry dropped the fare and made crossings free, the city decided to keep adhering to the stricter Coast Guard safety rules that pertain to vessels that carry paying passengers and signed an agreement with the Coast Guard to keep those rules in place. She added that safety and operations drills including steering drills, anchor drills, fire drills and abandon-ship drills were conducted once a week on most boats.

She said that she had no concerns about disbanding the five-member field inspection team, which was set up in 1996 mostly to ensure that pothole repair crews were doing their jobs. About a quarter of the team's time was supposed to be devoted to monitoring crews on the ferries.

She said there had been no new or improved unit created. She noted, however, that besides the port captains the department had customarily asked senior ferry officials and other top transportation officials who took the boats to be watchful.

"So there are a lot of people with eyes who are looking around," she said.

While the ferries, unlike others around the country, perform no count of the number passengers the count was abandoned after the ferry became free in 1997 and turnstiles were removed from the terminals Ms. Weinshall said that crew members were experienced at making sure the boats were not overfilled. She said the Coast Guard had agreed that it would be impossible to keep a count after charging for rides was ended.

"Our crews can pretty much thumbnail sketch how many people are on board," she said.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

October 29th, 2003, 02:14 AM
October 29, 2003

Doubt Is Cast on Accounts About Crash of Ferry


Two witnesses to the Staten Island ferry crash this month said they saw the ferry's assistant captain erect and alone at the controls about a minute before the vessel slammed into a pier, killing 10 people, an official briefed on the investigation said yesterday.

The witnesses a crew member and a man on a nearby tugboat also said that the ferry's captain, Michael J. Gansas, was not in the Staten Island pilothouse of the Andrew J. Barberi, as he told investigators, the official said.

The witness on the tugboat saw Captain Gansas running across the top of the ferry from the Manhattan pilothouse to the Staten Island pilothouse after the accident, and the crew member, who was in the Staten Island pilothouse, said Captain Gansas was not there roughly a minute before the boat crashed, the official said.

The two accounts throw into question some of the earlier versions of events that led up to the Oct. 15 crash. Those include one provided by the assistant captain, Richard J. Smith, who suggested to the police in a brief initial statement that he had lost consciousness, and another by Captain Gansas, who said on the day of the crash that he was in the pilothouse and tried to stop the boat from ramming into the pier.

The two accounts are among many provided to investigators, who have not ruled out the possibility that the assistant captain may have become incapacitated in some way.

But as National Transportation Safety Board investigators have determined that the vessel was traveling at nearly its top speed and did not slow down as it approached the Staten Island terminal, the accounts raise questions as to why no attempt was apparently made to slow it down.

Investigators were able to determine that the man seen running across the top of the ferry from one wheelhouse to the other was Captain Gansas because only he and Captain Smith wore the distinctive uniform of white shirts and black trousers that are known as salt and pepper among the ferry crews, the official said.

Department of Transportation officials have said that it is standard procedure for both captains to be in the pilothouse on the docking end of the ferry when it pulls into its slips in Manhattan and Staten Island. But several current and former veteran ferry officers have said that the procedure is often ignored.

The crash, the worst transportation disaster in the city since 1950, is the subject of two parallel investigations.

One is being conducted by the safety board with the aim of ensuring safe ferry operations. The other is being conducted by the New York Police Department and the office of the Staten Island district attorney, William L. Murphy, to determine whether a crime was committed.

The evidence compiled as part of the initial police investigation, which has included interviews with all 16 crew members, most of whom were cooperative with detectives, has been handed over to Mr. Murphy, who could decide as early as today to present the evidence to a grand jury, which would then weigh criminal charges.

Most members of the vessel's crew have been interviewed more than once, but Captain Gansas and Captain Smith made only brief statements to the police in the hours after the accident, officials have said. Captain Gansas has refused to speak to the N.T.S.B. or police investigators, citing what his lawyer said was the trauma of the crash.

Captain Smith, who the authorities said fled the dock after the crash, went home and tried to kill himself, remains hospitalized.

Lawyers for Captain Gansas, who was suspended without pay after he refused to talk to city lawyers and has been ordered to appear in court on Nov. 5 to talk to safety board investigators, declined to comment yesterday on the witness accounts that place him in the wrong pilothouse.

In a written statement yesterday, Captain Smith's lawyers, Joel S. Cohen and Alan M. Abramson, said, "It is our understanding that Assistant Captain Smith passed out while operating the vessel," adding that any account "suggesting that Captain Smith did not experience some kind of blackout is based on incomplete or inaccurate information and is just not correct."

The statement also said that he was undergoing tests "to determine the cause of this episode" but that the tests were not yet complete. Mr. Cohen said in a brief interview that his client was being moved from St. Vincent's Hospital, where he was taken after the suicide attempt, to another hospital, where he will be treated for two clogged arteries.

Captain Smith, in his brief comments to the police, also said that he had taken blood pressure medication on the morning of the crash. Information from his pharmacy and medical records showed that he had prescriptions for six different medications. But the official briefed on the investigation said the inquiry had found that none of them "would have an impact on his ability to operate" the vessel.

It remained unclear whether he had any of them in his bloodstream at the time of the accident.

Blood tests found that he had no alcohol or illegal drugs in his bloodstream when he was tested after the crash, although he did have a tolerable level of the over-the-counter pain reliever Aleve in his system, the official said. The tests for prescription drugs have not yet been completed, the official said.

In addition to the high blood pressure medication, Captain Smith had a prescription for a medication to reduce his cholesterol level and one for a popular drug to aid in sleeping, but the official said that even if he had taken the sleeping medication during the day, it would not have made him drowsy.

While safety board investigators looking into the crash have all but completed their on-site inquiry in New York City, the agency may hold public hearings on the crash in Washington in the next few months, officials said.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

October 30th, 2003, 08:11 AM
October 30, 2003

Federal Prosecutors in Brooklyn Announce Criminal Investigation of S.I. Ferry Crash


A wreath was tossed into New York Harbor Wednesday in a service at the St. George Esplanade on Staten Island in memory of the 10 people killed in the Oct. 15 crash of a Staten Island ferry. Officials announced an investigation into possible federal criminal charges in the crash.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn announced yesterday that they were conducting their own criminal investigation into the Staten Island ferry crash that killed 10 people, in addition to inquiries by city police, state prosecutors and federal safety investigators.

The Staten Island district attorney, William L. Murphy, and police officials, who have been investigating the Oct. 15 crash for the last two weeks, said they would cooperate with the office of the United States attorney in Brooklyn, Roslynn R. Mauskopf.

In a brief written statement, Ms. Mauskopf said, "We have taken this action to fulfill the federal government's significant responsibility to protect the safety of the millions who travel on New York's waterways each year," and added, "We will apply the full resources of the United States government to follow the facts and determine if there is criminal liability, and if so, we will hold those involved accountable for their conduct."

Ms. Mauskopf's office will consider bringing charges under a federal statute that was used nearly 100 years ago to convict the captain of the steamer General Slocum after more than 1,000 people died in a fire, and was used more recently after the Golden Venture, a ship carrying illegal Chinese immigrants, ran aground off Queens in 1993 and 10 people drowned trying to swim ashore. Under the statute, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a crew member or officer is guilty if someone dies as a result of their misconduct, negligence or inattention to duty.

The announcement came as Mr. Murphy began reviewing the police interviews of crew members and other witnesses to the afternoon crash, and his office said he would convene a state grand jury next week to determine whether criminal charges are warranted.

Two important witnesses, the vessel's captain and assistant captain, who have become the focus of the Police Department's inquiry, made brief statements to the police shortly after the crash but have not been questioned by detectives, officials have said.

The assistant captain, Richard J. Smith, who suggested to investigators in his statement that he passed out, has been hospitalized since trying to kill himself after the crash. The captain, Michael J. Gansas, has refused to speak to detectives; his lawyer says he was too upset.

Two witnesses have told police investigators that Captain Smith was erect and alone at the controls of the vessel and that Captain Gansas, despite his brief statement to the contrary, was not in the wheelhouse as the ship crashed. Officials of the federal Department of Transportation have said that their standard procedures require that both captains be in the wheelhouse at the docking end of the ferry when it pulls into its slip.

Officials involved in the case said a prosecutor from Ms. Mauskopf's office attended meetings with police and prosecutors from Mr. Murphy's office and was briefed on other meetings. An official in Ms. Mauskopf's office would not say what actions it has taken in the investigation, whether subpoenas have been issued or whether a grand jury has begun hearing evidence.

Two other officials said federal subpoenas have been issued.

Joel S. Cohen, who along with Alan M. Abramson represents Captain Smith, said they have spoken to the prosecutor in charge of the investigation in Ms. Mauskopf's office and plan to stay in touch. Stephen J. Sheinbaum, a lawyer for Captain Gansas, declined to comment.

The National Transportation Safety Board is checking to ensure the safety of ferry operations, and the New York Police Department and Mr. Murphy's office are checking to determine whether a crime was committed. The disclosure of the federal inquiry, running parallel to that by the police and Mr. Murphy, means that any potential crime could result in two prosecutions, one in state court and one in federal court.

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said yesterday at a news briefing that his detectives would remain the chief criminal investigators and that the two prosecutors' offices would determine the court in which any case might be prosecuted. "These are New York City citizens, residents, that died, so we're going to continue that investigation," he said.

Depending on the evidence, Mr. Murphy's office could bring charges under a provision of the New York State Maritime Law similar to the federal statute, which carries a maximum sentence of four years. It could decide instead to pursue charges of reckless manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide, which carry maximum penalties, respectively, of 15 or 4 years in prison.

Mr. Murphy said yesterday that he has been in contact with Ms. Mauskopf.

"There are legitimate federal statutes and they have a right to look at them, and to the extent that they are different from what I can look at, they may be more effective," he said. "At the moment, we're talking, and we're both at the very preliminary stages of this thing, and we promised to keep one another apprised of what we're thinking."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

November 1st, 2003, 05:28 AM
November 1, 2003

History of Human Error Found in Ferry Accidents


A review of 1,500 Coast Guard safety records over the last 25 years shows that Staten Island ferries have been involved in dozens of accidents that injured hundreds and were often attributed to human error chiefly what investigators called inattentiveness, poor judgment or negligence by crew members.

The records of Coast Guard investigations and inspections, as well as those of disciplinary hearings for ferry employees dating to the 1950's, sometimes came to disturbing conclusions. Among them were that ferry managers for years ignored safety recommendations that could have prevented injuries and that some accidents could have been far worse if not for plain luck.

Taken together, the investigations suggest that the deadly crash last month of the Andrew J. Barberi, which killed 10 passengers, was less than a complete surprise.

Yesterday, the city's Department of Transportation, which runs the Staten Island ferries, said it, too, would undertake a review of all Coast Guard investigations.

After a ferry banged into a dock in April 1995, a Coast Guard report attributed injuries to 16 passengers to lax safety rules and said "the number of injuries, and possibly fatalities, could have been much greater" had the incident occurred during rush hour.

Indeed, when 200 passengers were injured during a rush-hour crash of a ferry in November 1978 into a seawall, investigators concluded that it was merely good fortune that no one was killed.

Officials came to a similar conclusion after reviewing the circumstances of a collision that sunk the ferry Verrazano on a cold September dawn in 1963. An administrative judge found that the ferry's captain "failed to exhibit the unremitting vigilance" necessary to pilot the boat and noted pointedly that the mostly empty ferry was capable of carrying 3,000 people.

"Had this collision occurred during a peak loading period or in more open water," the judge said, "the catastrophe would stagger the imagination."

The review of the records, obtained by The New York Times through a request under the Freedom of Information Act, clearly sheds a harsh light on the role of human failure in ferry operations. Human error is the prime suspect in the Oct. 15 Barberi accident.

In announcing that the city had asked the United States Merchant Marine Academy to review all reports of past incidents as part of a broad examination of the ferry system's practices and safety record, Iris Weinshall, the transportation commissioner, said that the examination would look at, among other things, the "human factors" that play a role in ferry accidents.

Tom Cocola, a department spokesman, said the review of past incidents would be a key component of determining how to improve safety. "We want them to look at the old Coast Guard reports of accidents that occurred over the last two to three decades and see what we can learn, what trends developed, and what we can do to improve safety for passengers," Mr. Cocola said. "Every aspect of our operation now is up for review and improvement."

The records show that since 1978 at least 50 incidents have resulted in injuries to passengers and crew members on the seven ferries that make the daily five-mile runs between the St. George Terminal on Staten Island and Whitehall Street in Manhattan. Not all of those incidents were the result of ferry crashes; some involved slip-and-falls, fingers slammed in gates or other individual mishaps.

But more than 30 accidents, ranging from collisions to fires, have been blamed on what investigators deemed to be mistakes or acts of negligence by captains, mates, deckhands or other ferry employees. Investigating the hard landing of a ferry five years ago, Coast Guard officials found that managers had increased the risk to passengers by allowing a captain in training to practice his mooring skills by docking the fully loaded ferry.

"New vessel operators should be given the opportunity to practice docking ferry vessels without passengers aboard," investigators said. "Passengers should not be subject to the additional hazards of practicing captains."

Some of the records also provide a glimpse of the monetary cost of human error. For instance, a collision involving the ferry Samuel I. Newhouse in December 1992 resulted in no injuries but inflicted close to $120,000 in damage, a report of the incident shows.

Prior to last month's Barberi accident, the worst incident involved the 1978 crash of the American Legion, which injured about 200 passengers. A Coast Guard investigation found that the captain had exercised poor judgment while navigating through fog, causing the ferry to miss the Whitehall Street Terminal and ram into a concrete sea wall.

Contributing to the high number of injuries was that many of the passengers were packed near the front of the boat in anticipation of its landing. The failure of ferry operators to enforce rules keeping passengers seated, or at least away from the bow and out of stairways during landings, emerges as a recurring problem.

After the April 1995 ferry accident that injured 16 passengers, the Coast Guard emphatically urged the city to not allow passengers on the bridge deck until the boat was docked. There is little evidence, however, that the city took the advice to heart.

Three years later, after a passenger was injured when the Newhouse made a hard landing in July 1998, investigators found that voice announcements by deckhands alerting passengers that the boat was about to dock were "deficient in clarity, volume and content." It also found that the ferries lacked adequate signs and equipment that could be used to keep people away from dangerous areas during landing.

The Coast Guard recommended that ferry management develop automated announcements to keep passengers informed and add signs and other safety precautions.

But three months later, after the Barberi made a hard landing that knocked passengers to the deck and caused one to dislocate her shoulder, investigators found that ferry operators had not implemented the recommendations.

Since the Barberi disaster last month, city transportation officials said they were adopting many recommendations made by the Coast Guard over the years. Deckhands will use rope barriers to keep passengers away from the bow during landings, and more warning signs are being added.

In addition, the city will now require that at least three people be in the wheelhouse until the ferry docks. That step was inspired by the apparent absence of the captain, Michael J. Gansas, from the Barberi's wheelhouse when it plowed into a pier with only the assistant captain, Richard J. Smith, at the controls.

Investigators say the Barberi never slowed down as it neared the end of its 22-minute trip to the St. George Terminal. Witnesses have told investigators that Captain Smith appeared to be erect and alone at the controls as the boat approached the pier, and that Captain Gansas was seen running from the opposite end of the boat toward the wheelhouse immediately after impact.

Although it has long been a practice of the Transportation Department to use lookouts to lessen the chance of human error, the Coast Guard records show it is another safety rule that was not always followed. In fact, they show that ferry managers and employees have often not been attuned to the role of human error in accidents.

As far back as 1958, when the ferry Dongan Hills collided with a tanker, it was discovered that two lookouts assigned by the captain had abandoned their posts.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

February 13th, 2004, 10:50 AM
February 13, 2004

Changes Urged in Operations of S.I. Ferry


A city-sponsored report released yesterday called for significant changes in the way the Staten Island ferry operates, including adding another senior officer to vessels, establishing formal training for ferry workers, hiring a new chief of operations - even increasing the number of lifeboats and rescue craft on board.

The report, prepared by the Global Maritime and Transportation School in the United States Merchant Marine Academy on Long Island, follows last October's accident that left 11 people dead. It also recommended instituting a broad "safety management system" already used by much of the maritime industry that would formalize procedures for all aspects of the operation.

Taken together, the recommendations would transform a New York institution that had fallen behind others in the seafaring world and been victimized in part by its own insular culture, in which tradition and practice trumped formal procedures and innovations adopted elsewhere.

The city Department of Transportation commissioner, Iris Weinshall, in promising to adopt the recommendations, declared an end yesterday to "the old Staten Island ferry culture."

"Its time has come and gone," she said.

While calling for changes in the ferry system, the report credited it for its effectiveness despite limited money and staffing and the "existence of a corporate culture within the ferry organization which may not be conducive to operating a first-rate marine transportation system."

"It is a good operation," said Capt. Christopher J. McMahon, director of the Global Maritime school, pointing out that the ferry already exceeded minimum safety standards set by the Coast Guard.

Absent from the report was any mention of what has become a focus of the criminal investigation into the fatal accident on Oct. 15: whether rules about having the captain and assistant captain in the wheelhouse during docking were properly disseminated by officials.

The pilot, Richard J. Smith, an assistant captain, has told the authorities that he lost consciousness just before the crash. Several witnesses have said that Capt. Michael J. Gansas was not in the pilothouse with him when the accident happened, as the city said was required. But many ferry employees said they were never notified of that requirement or other rules.

Yesterday, Ms. Weinshall repeated the city's contention. "We believe there were written procedures," she said.

Mr. Smith met with prosecutors again yesterday for "an extended period of time," a law enforcement official said. "The conversation was general, about his medications, about the procedures."

The three-month assessment, officials pointed out yesterday, was prompted by the accident but focused on overall operations, leaving the investigation to the police and the National Transportation Safety Board.

"We have a responsibility to do whatever we can to improve ferry operations and safety now," Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said.

At the center of the report's recommendations is the "safety management system," which is already required for international vessels like those in the cruise industry. Washington state's giant ferry system, which has been hailed by many as a model, has had the system in place since 2000, said Kelly J. Mitchell, senior port captain for Washington State Ferries.

About a month and a half ago, prosecutors on the Staten Island ferry case traveled to Washington to study the state's ferry operations. A former employee of Washington State Ferries who took part in the assessment of the Staten Island ferry told Mr. Mitchell that Washington's ferries were 15 years ahead of New York City's, Mr. Mitchell said yesterday.

The safety management system essentially lays out job responsibilities, operating procedures and lines of authority, among other aspects, in a systematic fashion. Writing up these manuals is the city's "first and foremost" priority, Ms. Weinshall said yesterday.

Also high on the list was hiring a chief operations officer. City officials said a search was already under way.

The report also recommended creating three other new positions: senior port captain, senior port engineer and safety manager. It would also lead to the elimination of several top positions, including that of the director of ferry operations.

The current director, Patrick Ryan, and several other senior managers have become a focus of the criminal investigation into the accident. Investigators are looking into whether Mr. Ryan passed along operating procedures to employees under him. Ms. Weinshall said the top officials would not be fired but could apply for new jobs in the revamped ferry operation.

Another major change involves the staffing of the pilothouse. The report recommended that three senior officers with licenses to pilot the vessel be on board at all times, and two must always be in the pilothouse. Currently, only two such officers, the captain and the assistant captain, have to be aboard. According to the city, they are supposed to be in the pilothouse together during docking. The extra officer will act as a roving safety officer, checking procedures, possibly helping with security and also relieving pilots in need of a break.

A crucial obstacle to implementing the recommendations could be cost. The report, saying that many ferry employees appear to be overworked and constantly harried, called for the hiring of 95 new employees and reducing overtime. City officials estimated that the new hiring would add $3 million to the ferry's $38 million budget. This does not include the costs of other recommendations, like upgrades to navigational equipment.

"We're going to have to find ways within our budget to pay for this," Mr. Bloomberg said yesterday.

Lawyers yesterday predicted that the report would become fodder for those suing the city. Lawyers for the city are seeking to limit its liability in the accident, invoking a century-old maritime law that would cap damages at the value of the ferry after repairs. To do so, they must prove that the city was unaware of any negligence.

"It seems as though that, yes, on the day in question, there may have been human error, but the human error was born out of a society that accepted lax management and had people working too long," said Edward P. Milstein, a lawyer whose firm is representing three ferry victims, including the family of Debra Castro, 39, a passenger who lost both legs and later died. "They're talking about a culture and a climate that existed for a long time."

Meanwhile, lawyers for Mr. Gansas seized on the report as proof that their client should be exonerated. In late November, the city fired Mr. Ganzas for failing to cooperate with the crash's investigators.

"It's a document which establishes that no crew member was in violation of any so-called written rule," said William R. Bennett, one of the lawyers representing Mr. Gansas.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

February 13th, 2004, 11:15 AM
The complete report you can find here as pdf-document (from nynewsday)

February 13th, 2004, 11:22 AM
Assessment of Staten Island Ferry Operations (http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/pdf/gmats2004.pdf)

February 13th, 2004, 11:38 AM
Oh, i was too fast ! Christians link ist the direct way to the report.

March 18th, 2004, 09:13 AM
March 18, 2004

Prosecutors Claimed City Was Slowing Ferry Inquiry


Newly released documents show that in the early stages of the investigation of the fatal Staten Island ferry crash, federal prosecutors criticized the city's response to the inquiry, saying it "had a chilling effect on the candor of some city employees." The city's actions, they said, limited the ability of investigators "to get at the truth" and significantly slowed the inquiry.

In a Jan. 21 letter, the United States attorney in Brooklyn, Roslynn R. Mauskopf, detailed her concerns to the city corporation counsel, Michael A. Cardozo. She suggested that there could be a conflict of interest in the city's hiring of a private lawyer to advise more than a dozen ferry captains, assistant captains and other workers who were called as witnesses before the grand jury investigating the crash.

In the three-page letter, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Ms. Mauskopf said the city had referred several ferry employees to the private lawyer, a respected former federal prosecutor, even though they had never asked for such representation. She suggested that the move could make them reluctant to criticize their superiors.

She also said the lawyer had passed on to the city information from the workers about ferry procedures, a crucial element of the criminal investigation and of the more than $3 billion in civil lawsuits against the city in the aftermath of the Oct. 15 crash. In fact, Ms. Mauskopf pointed to an acknowledgment by city lawyers that a significant motivation for hiring the lawyer was the city's concern over its own civil liability in the lawsuits stemming from the crash, in which 11 people died and scores were injured.

The documents show that Mr. Cardozo, in his four-page reply, defended the city's response, calling its cooperation extraordinary. He said that the city was interested in discovering the truth, and that anyone criminally responsible would be held accountable. But he also said he was determined to make sure that the city would be properly defended in the lawsuits.

He noted that the private lawyer, John S. Siffert, had been hired in deference to Ms. Mauskopf's view that city lawyers faced a potential conflict because of the lawsuits.

Both sides have since said that the situation has improved as the investigation has continued, expanding to include an examination of the performance of senior ferry officials.

The distress among investigators about the arrangement first surfaced in January, after Ms. Mauskopf and prosecutors from her office met to discuss the issue with Mr. Cardozo's deputy and lawyers from Debevoise & Plimpton, a private firm retained by the city to oversee its legal effort in the case. But the release of the letter reveals for the first time the depth of her concern over the city's handling of the case.

Last week, in an interview, Ms. Mauskopf said that the situation had improved, citing an agreement reached at the meeting between her office and city lawyers that would let ferry employees choose from a list of several lawyers.

"It has helped move the case forward and it has helped ensure that the city employees have proper representation should they want it so they can come forward and provide full and candid information in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation," she said.

Ms. Mauskopf would not describe what kind of information prosecutors may now be getting and declined to characterize how much the agreement had aided the investigation. But she clearly indicated satisfaction that "by breaking the connection between the lawyers and the city, the protocol has helped."

Mr. Siffert said he understood that the concerns expressed by Ms. Mauskopf had been put to rest regarding both his representation of a number of witnesses and his communications with the city's lawyers. "I've heard no further issue about that," he said. "The clients who have previously retained me I continue to represent vigorously, and I also represent vigorously the new clients who have retained me."

The recently released documents, though, do lay bare how suspicious both sides were as ferry workers began to testify before a federal grand jury.

In her letter in January, Ms. Mauskopf was emphatic about her worries. She said the city's actions at the time had created the perception among some witnesses that the city preferred that they be represented by the lawyer chosen by the city. Those actions also created the perception among some witnesses "that they should fear the consequences of providing information to the government that casts their superiors in an unfavorable light," she wrote.

"Indeed," she wrote, "some witnesses have expressed fear of retaliation for providing information in the criminal investigation."

Mr. Cardozo, who declined through a spokeswoman to comment on the exchange of letters, pointed out in his reply that his office had complied with Ms. Mauskopf's request that the city not question its own employees until the prosecutors had interviewed them first, a request he called "highly unusual."

"While we have acquiesced in your view that the criminal investigation should take precedence, the city's interests in correctly informing its citizens concerning the facts relating to that tragic event, in being sure that every step is taken to ensure that the ferries are as safe as possible, and in defending itself in the related civil litigation, are not insubstantial," Mr. Cardozo wrote. "Nonetheless, we have abided by our agreement.''

William Glaberson and Michael Luo contributed reporting for this article.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

June 30th, 2004, 09:25 AM

By Clemente Lisi
June 30, 2004

The ill-fated Staten Island ferry that slammed into a pier last fall, killing 11 passengers, goes back into service today, nearly nine months after the horrific crash.

The repaired and refurbished Andrew J. Barberi is scheduled to make its first run at 10:30 a.m. from St. George. Mayor Bloomberg and family members of those who died in the Oct. 15 disaster will be aboard.

The mayor will dedicate a plaque to the victims.

Repairs to the 23-year-old boat cost $5.9 million.

Investigators are still looking into what caused the accident. No charges have yet been filed.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc.

June 30th, 2004, 10:48 PM
July 1, 2004

Ferry Involved in Fatal Crash Is Back Making Staten Island Run


Angela Paguay and her son, Angel, pass the memorial plaque for the passengers who died in the ferry crash, including her son, Guillermo Paguay. Families of 2 of the 11 families asked that their names be left off.

On the deck where the passengers died, all the seats are new. The linoleum floor has been removed. The orange and blue exterior was completely repainted, rather than being simply retouched in the most damaged areas.

The Andrew J. Barberi was to be back in service early this morning for the first time since it crashed at the St. George terminal of the Staten Island ferry on Oct. 15, 2003, killing 11 people. Looking at it yesterday, it was difficult to imagine the carnage that day, but now there is a reminder: a plaque honoring the passengers who died.

It was dedicated yesterday by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Commissioner Iris Weinshall of the Department of Transportation in a ceremony attended by victims' friends and families.

"Nothing will ever fully repair the damage done on that terrible day, or bring the loved ones back, or make us whole again," Mr. Bloomberg said, "but I do believe this ferry's return to service is an example of the resilience and strength of our city."

He added that the city owed it to the passengers killed and injured "to draw whatever possible lessons we can from that terrible day."

When the Barberi smashed into a pier at the Staten Island terminal, the loss of life and the injuries made it one of the city's worst mass transit accidents in more than 50 years.

The ferry, which carries 6,000 passengers and is 310 feet long, required six months of work. The $9 million job was done at the Caddell Dry Dock and Repair Company on Staten Island, a sprawling collection of docks and cranes on the Kill Van Kull about two miles from the spot where the crash occurred. Steve Kalil, Caddell's president, said the size of the project broke new ground for the 101-year-old company. "We do work like that, but never on such a large scale," he said. "It's almost like a building-yard project, it was so big."

Mr. Kalil said the mangled steel along two-thirds of the vessel on the "New Jersey side" had to be removed and replaced before work on the interior could begin. The company got the ferry on Dec. 15 and worked for six months to complete the repairs.

They even found the exact seat molds and red and yellow seats used in the original design. "The city took great pains to restore the ship," Mr. Kalil said. "They wanted everything to look the same as before."

Yesterday's public ceremony began in the terminal at 10:30 a.m., shortly after Mr. Bloomberg and Ms. Weinshall arrived from Manhattan on another ferry. A moment of silence and prayers was followed by speeches by Mr. Bloomberg and James P. Molinaro, the Staten Island borough president.

"There's no way I can feel what you feel," Mr. Molinaro said to the victims' friends and relatives, "but whatever I can do as a representative and as a human being, I will."

The 11 names were read, each one followed by a blast from a ferry horn.

The friends and relatives then boarded the Barberi as crew members affixed the plaque to a bulkhead in the center of the ferry's middle level, just above the main deck, which suffered the most damage.

Workers put the plaque between two existing memorials, one for the ferry's launching in 1981 and the other for the man the ferry is named for, a football coach at Curtis High School on Staten Island.

Relatives of one victim, Guillermo Paguay, made the sign of the cross as they approached the plaque. Rose Scavo, the grandmother of another victim, Joseph Bagarozza, kissed her finger before and after touching his name.

After the ceremony, Mrs. Scavo said she was still struggling to cope. "You try to overcome, but you never do," she said. "I've been upset all day."

She might ride another ferry, she said, but not the Barberi. "I don't think I could," she said.

Some family members chose not to board the ferry. Eros and Eboni Marshall, brother and sister of Darius Marshall, who was 25 and died on his way home from work, sat in silence in the terminal.

As the television cameras clustered around other grieving families, they chose to stay in the terminal because, as Mr. Marshall said, "this is where my brother took his last breath."

Mayor Bloomberg said the National Transportation Safety Board and the United States attorney's office were still investigating the crash.

"There are no instant answers," he said. "These things can take time."

Ms. Weinshall listed some of the steps that have been taken to increase safety and prevent future crashes. She cited improved security aboard the ferries and at the terminals, identification tags worn by uniformed crew members making them easier to spot, better communication between the pilot house and the rest of the crew, and satellite navigation systems for the ferries.

"I feel they are doing what they should have done from the start," Mr. Marshall said of the new safety system. "It's a little too late now. The government is here to protect the people. I appreciate them memorializing those killed here, but I don't feel any solace at this time."

The Barberi is to make its return at 6:20 this morning.

Jennifer Steinhauer contributed reporting for this article.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

July 1st, 2004, 10:40 AM

July 1, 2004

A moment of silence yesterday morning marked the return of the tragic boat Andrew J. Barberi repaired and ready to go to the Staten Island ferry fleet.

A ceremony at St. George Terminal unveiled a plaque dedicated to the 11 people who died in the Oct. 15 crash.

The Barberi returns to service this morning, leaving Staten Island at 6:20 a.m. for lower Manhattan.

Mayor Bloomberg said the ferry's return will serve as "an example of resilience and strength of our city."

The ferry's foghorn was sounded 11 times in memory of each of the victims.

The city spent $5.9 million to rehab the vessel, sealing a 250-foot gash along its side and replacing damaged seats and windows.

The mayor toured the rebuilt ferry with a small group of family members for 20 minutes. Some cried as they touched the plaque.

"It's a sad day, but I think what it means is that we can grieve and rebuild at the same time," Bloomberg said.

The city has argued that Capt. Michael Gansas, who was in command of the Barberi when it crashed, broke the rules because he was not in the pilothouse. Gansas was fired after refusing to talk with investigators.

Assistant Capt. Richard Smith, who was at the helm, told investigators he passed out at the wheel.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc.

July 2nd, 2004, 01:28 AM
New York Times
July 2, 2004

Relatives of Some Victims Say S.I. Ferry Should Be Renamed


As the Andrew J. Barberi began carrying passengers across New York Harbor again yesterday, family members of some who died when it crashed last fall remained angry at the city for failing to change the ferry boat's name.

As it turns out, several of them had opened a late campaign for a new name and were lobbying until the boat's rededication on Wednesday.

At that ceremony, presided over by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the only hint of the dispute was on the plaque, affixed to the bulkhead, memorializing the victims.

It reads: "In memory of the Staten Island Ferry passengers who lost their lives and in dedication to those who were injured aboard the Andrew J. Barberi on Oct. 15, 2003." The names of nine people are arranged neatly in three columns.

But 11 people died in the accident. Two names - Carmen Huertas and Vincent Ferrante Jr. - were missing. City officials made no mention of them.

The city's failure to change the boat's name was the reason Mr. Ferrante's family refused to allow his name on the plaque.

"Our feeling was the boat shouldn't have been put back into the water to begin with," said his mother, Michelle Ferrante, "but we realize, as far as the city's concerned, financially that would have to happen, and we've accepted that. But we feel the name of the boat should be changed."

The name evoked too many bad memories, she said. "Looking at the Andrew Barberi name, we look at it as the boat that killed my son and 10 other people."

The Huertas family was angry, too. Roberto Huertas, Carmen's husband, refused to have her name on the plaque because he does not think the boat should have been used again, said his brother, Raul.

Raul Huertas summed up his brother's feelings this way: "They killed my wife and they have made the boat into a tourist attraction."

All the families got letters in May from the city's community assistance unit asking if they would like their relatives' names on the plaque.

Ms. Ferrante and her husband, Vincent Sr., told representatives of the unit immediately that they did not, as long as the boat's name was going to stay the same. They were told to put their request in writing.

"They seemed very sympathetic at the time," Ms. Ferrante said.

The family wrote a letter but did not follow up until two weeks ago. They were told that nine of the other families had no problem with the name, that of a popular Staten Island football coach.

The Ferrantes set out to track down the relatives of other victims, and managed to reach seven. All favored a name change.

The families were notified about the dedication ceremony last week. Frantic, the Ferrantes scheduled a meeting on Monday with Commissioner Jonathan Greenspun, the head of the community assistance unit, to press their case. They were able to round up only three other families: the relatives of John P. Healy, Pio Canini and Frank R. Sullivan.

In addition to the name issue, they complained to Mr. Greenspun that they were not being kept informed about the investigation into the crash.

"It just seems like a lot of stuff we find out by reading it in the newspaper the next day," said Tara Canini-Maresca, 27, whose father, Pio, was killed in the accident.

Ms. Ferrante said that she had expected to hear back from Mr. Greenspun the next day, but that he did not call until after the ceremony on Wednesday. He told them the name had not been changed.

At the ceremony, Mayor Bloomberg was asked why he decided to keep the name. "I don't think we should, No. 1, walk away from our history," he said. "It was the Barberi that was in the accident. Eleven people died; a number were terribly injured, and we have to remember them, and also remember the Barberi was named after somebody who contributed a lot to the city.'' The Ferrantes said yesterday that they had suggested an alternative: "Eleven in Heaven."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

July 2nd, 2004, 09:19 AM

July 2, 2004

Passengers showed no fear yesterday as they boarded the Staten Island ferryboat that slammed into a pier last year, killing 11 people, as the vessel returned to service for the first time in nearly nine months.

Hundreds of ferry riders packed the Andrew J. Barberi at 6:20 a.m. and sat in bright red and yellow seats for the boat's first run since it crashed into a pier Oct. 15 near St. George Terminal.

"If I'm going to die, I'm going to die no matter where I am," said Patty Hendricks, who took the first trip into lower Manhattan.

Passengers were confident the new features on the ferry like clearer announcements and GPS technology will make the 25-minute crossings safer.

"I think [city agencies] are cleaning up their act," said Jeanne Giorlando, a nurse from Staten Island.

"In the past, they were very lax, but I think that accident was a wake-up call."

The Department of Transportation spent $5.9 million to repair the 23-year-old Barberi, which included sealing a 250-foot-long gash.

A plaque on the ferry, in memory of the 11 passengers who died, omitted the names of two people whose families asked they not be included.

"It looks like a brand-new boat," said DOT spokesman Tom Cocola.

Mayor Bloomberg and families of the crash victims gathered Wednesday for a relaunching ceremony aboard the boat.

The Brooklyn U.S. attorney's office and National Transportation Safety Board have launched separate probes into the crash.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc.

July 2nd, 2004, 09:22 AM
Passengers were confident the new features on the ferry like clearer announcements and GPS technology will make the 25-minute crossings safer.

I guess there needs to be a terrible accident in a train so they can also later have clearer announcements. I hardly understand those announcements in the trains....they totally suck.

July 8th, 2004, 11:52 AM

July 8, 2004

Families of those killed in last year's Staten Island Ferry crash ripped the city yesterday for placing a plaque inside the boat and failing to rename the vessel in the victims' honor.

"Putting that plaque on the boat is like putting a tattoo on a murder," said Vincent Ferrante Sr., whose son Vincent Jr. died last Oct. 15 when the Andrew J. Barberi crashed near St. George Terminal. "A murderer kills 11 people and you put a tattoo on his arm."

The city unveiled the plaque last week. It features only nine names, because the families of two victims protested the decision to put the ferry back in service.

Ferrante said the city failed to respect those who died.

"Just because we're not as big as 9/11 doesn't mean we are not important," he said. Hasani Gittens

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc.

July 8th, 2004, 12:01 PM
"Putting that plaque on the boat is like putting a tattoo on a murder," said Vincent Ferrante Sr., whose son Vincent Jr. died last Oct. 15 when the Andrew J. Barberi crashed near St. George Terminal. "A murderer kills 11 people and you put a tattoo on his arm."

Please... It was a tragic accident not a murder. I am sure the boat was not thinking of killing people.

The responsibe people were the captain and the crew. Now they should not be allowed to put a tatoo with the victims names.

July 8th, 2004, 01:38 PM
Oh, so just because 9-11 gets more attension they believe thatthey are ENTITLED to more pity?

I feel sorry for them, but come ON! Your kid is dead. Deal with it. Dwelling on it too much is not a healthy thing to do....

July 14th, 2004, 11:24 AM

July 14, 2004

Indictments are likely to come in the next month in connection with last fall's Staten Island ferry disaster.

The Brooklyn U.S. attorney's office was granted a 30-day extension yesterday to freeze any civil proceedings in the case, giving it more time for a grand-jury probe.

The feds made the move out of fear civil suits would interfere with the criminal investigation into the crash of the Andrew J. Barberi.

The ferry slammed into a pier near St. George Terminal on Oct. 15, killing 11 passengers and injuring 71.

The federal investigation has focused on the whereabouts of Capt. Michael Gansas and other crew members at the time of the crash.

Kati Cornell Smith

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc.

July 21st, 2004, 12:26 AM
July 21, 2004


After the Ferry Crash, a New Captain at the Helm


STANDING at the bow of a Staten Island-bound ferryboat on a recent afternoon, Capt. James C. DeSimone, the new chief operations officer for the ferry, scrutinized another orange vessel churning its way across the harbor toward him.

"Now this would be the Barberi," he said, referring to the Andrew J. Barberi, the ferry that crashed in October, killing 11 people, and is now back in service.

As he watched the boat pass, his face remained impassive. "Being a professional mariner, you don't like to personalize the vessel," he said. "On the other hand, you know there were so many people that lost their lives."

The moment was in many ways emblematic of the task ahead for this veteran seaman, whose career has taken him around the world and now to the helm of one of New York City's most indispensable institutions. As he seeks to start a new era for the ferry service, the Barberi accident is likely to keep looming over everything like a thick harbor fog.

Criminal indictments related to the crash are expected any day. Even on this sunny afternoon, as the boat delivered Captain DeSimone back to his spartan office near the St. George ferry terminal, reminders of the catastrophe were inescapable. A deckhand, Joseph Selch, waved a greeting to him just before docking. Mr. Selch was aboard the Barberi the day of the accident, a detail not lost on his new boss.

Captain DeSimone, 52, is taking over an operation that has endured a torrent of criticism since the crash, accused of falling badly behind other maritime enterprises in its safety procedures and training, and assailed as a bastion of nepotism and cronyism. One of his main challenges, he says, is simply regaining the public's trust.

In his first two and a half months on the job, he has refrained from making significant changes, trying instead to familiarize himself with the operation and meet as many of his 480 employees as possible. "I'm just trying to be deliberate and thoughtful," he says.

That's an apt description of Captain DeSimone, who says his management style is much like the approach he used when captaining ships at sea. Prudence is the rule, until it comes time to act and decisiveness is needed.

Although a city-sponsored assessment of the ferry operation after the crash laid out a blueprint for change, Captain DeSimone says he will make his own decisions about what needs to be done. But he has taken one of the assessment's central recommendations - the establishment of a comprehensive "safety management system," in which policies and procedures are formalized so they can be regularly audited for compliance - as one of his major goals.

Toward that end, he has hired a new director of safety and security, Margaret M. Gordon, who set up a similar system for a New Jersey tanker company. He has convened a committee of captains and an outside consultant to begin looking at procedures inside the pilothouse, which has been a focus of the criminal investigation into the crash. Still, establishing systems like these routinely takes two or three years in the private sector, he says, so New Yorkers will have to be patient.

Although he was surprised that procedures and training were not better at a ferry service that carries 65,000 passengers a day, he says, he knew when he started the job that publicly run ferries are often hampered by limited money and manpower. He hastens to add that he believes the boats are now being operated safely. "We're just moving it into today's world of maritime operations," he says.

Much of Captain DeSimone's success will depend on his ability to win the respect of the captains, engineers and deckhands who make the ferry run. City officials are hoping his seafaring background will help.

INDEED, in some ways, Captain DeSimone seems born for this job. He grew up surrounded by water on the Bronx campus of the State University of New York Maritime College, where his father was a professor. He had his first sailboat, a 10-foot dinghy, at age 8. After graduating from the Maritime College, he went off to sea for more than a decade, starting as an unlicensed crewman and rising through the ranks to become a full-fledged captain in 1983, commanding an oil tanker that circled the globe.

Three years later, married with a young daughter in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., he decided to bring his family back to New York to take an administrative post, commandant of cadets, at the Maritime College. In 1996, he became vice president of Great Lakes Towing, a century-old tugboat company based in Cleveland that had 51 vessels stationed around the world.

He finally returned to New York last year as a vice president of New York Water Taxi, a private ferry service. Then the posting went out for the Staten Island ferry job, as part of the changes recommended after the accident. Three friends e-mailed the job description to him, urging him to apply, and he was hired over 120 other candidates.

Ever since, it has been a whirlwind of work, with both ferry terminals being overhauled, three new vessels under construction and the Barberi returning to service.

But built into Captain DeSimone's job is one of the best respites he could ever ask for, he says. Every day, he journeys back and forth aboard the ferry. Sometimes he travels in the pilothouse; other times, he joins the rest of the passengers below. But seeing the majestic harbor, dotted with vessels, never fails to inspire.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

July 28th, 2004, 10:42 AM
S.I. ferry victim settles for 1.1M from city

Tracy Connor
Originally published on July 28, 2004

A woman who fractured her leg and pelvis in the Staten Island ferry crash has won a $1.125 million settlement from the city - the biggest payout in the tragedy so far.

Laura Diaz, 41, a court clerk who has been out of work since the accident, is the 33rd ferry victim to settle a lawsuit with the city.

The amount she will receive is almost double the total of the other 32 settlements combined. Some 150 other suits are pending, including a $300million case by double-amputee Paul Esposito.

Diaz was on her way home from work on Oct. 15 when the Andrew J. Barberi strayed off course and smashed into a concrete pier on Staten Island.

"She had very serious injuries to her leg. It was badly fractured and required surgery to put it back together with plates and screws," said her lawyer, Daniel O'Toole.

The operations left scars and will likely lead to arthritis as Diaz, a married mom, gets older, he said.

"She's been working hard to get back on her feet," O'Toole said. "But she will never be the same."

The city said it considered Diaz's injuries "very serious."

"We feel this was a reasonable settlement that we hope will assist in bringing closure to her and her family," said Susan Rogerson Pondish of the city corporation counsel's office.

Eleven people were killed in the ferry accident and dozens were injured.

All contents 2004 Daily News, L.P.

August 4th, 2004, 04:30 AM
August 4, 2004

Pilot Is Expected to Plead Guilty in S.I. Ferry Crash


The pilot of the Staten Island ferry that plowed into a maintenance pier last October is expected to plead guilty today to criminal negligence for his role in the deaths of all 11 people killed as a result of the crash, law enforcement officials said yesterday.

Several other members of the city's ferry operations who have been under scrutiny since the crash, including the ship's captain and at least two senior supervisors, are expected to be formally charged in the accident later this week, two law enforcement officials said. The ferry pilot's doctor may also be charged, officials say.

A spokesman for Roslynn R. Mauskopf, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, would not comment yesterday, but Ms. Mauskopf's office scheduled a news conference for 1 p.m. today to announce the results of its investigation into the crash, one of the worst mass transit disasters in the city's history.

Yesterday, the calendar posted in federal court in Brooklyn made clear at least one result of the investigation. The pilot, Richard J. Smith, 55, was scheduled to appear before Judge Edward R. Korman. The proceeding: "Criminal cause for guilty plea."

Mr. Smith's lawyers, Alan M. Abramson, and Joel S. Cohen, declined to comment.

The maximum penalty under the negligence charge is 10 years in prison, but Mr. Smith will most likely face less that that under federal sentencing guidelines.

Mr. Smith at first told the authorities that he blacked out while at the controls of the vessel, the Andrew J. Barberi, on Oct. 15, 2003, and suggested that medication he was taking might have played a role in incapacitating him.

He was found shortly after the crash barricaded inside his bathroom at his home on Staten Island, with his wrists slashed and having shot himself in the chest with a pellet gun. The ship's captain, Michael J. Gansas, also drew early attention from investigators, after witnesses said that he was not in the wheelhouse with Mr. Smith, as the city has said its regulations require during docking.

Mr. Gansas's lawyers and other ferry workers have argued, however, that the rules were ambiguous and seldom enforced.

As the investigation progressed, it became clear that federal prosecutors were expanding their inquiry to include people who were not on board the Barberi that day, examining whether safety rules, like where the captain should be at the time of docking, were properly enforced by ferry officials, and whether any failure to enforce certain rules rose to the level of a crime.

According to the two law enforcement officials, Mr. Smith will plead guilty today to 11 counts of criminal negligence under an obscure maritime law.

It was used nearly 100 years ago to convict the captain of the General Slocum, an excursion steamer, after more than 1,000 people died in a fire on board. The statute typically applies to a ship's officers, but it can also be applied to public officials.

Several weeks ago, Patrick Ryan, the director of ferry operations, and John Mauldin, one of two port captains who helped Mr. Ryan in enforcing safety rules and supervising daily operations, received letters from the United States attorney's office indicating they could face indictment, a lawyer involved in the case said.

Mr. Ryan's lawyer, Thomas Fitzpatrick, declined to say whether his client had received a "target letter" or whether he would face charges.

Mr. Mauldin's lawyer, Nicholas M. DeFeis, would say only, "I hope they come to the right decision about everyone."

William Bennett, one of Mr. Gansas's lawyers, credited the United States attorney's office for its thoroughness.

"They've done a very exhaustive and intensive investigation," he said. "Whatever side of the fence you're on, they deserve a lot of credit."

The city began a wide-ranging examination of the ferry operation after the crash. Officials promised significant changes, including establishing more formal rules and procedures and better training for crew members.

But relatives of those killed in the accident grew frustrated that nothing concrete appeared to be happening in the criminal investigation. Word then spread quickly yesterday that the investigation was nearing a resolution.

"It's been so long waiting for something," said Debra Canini, whose husband, Pio, was killed. "We've been waiting every day."

Ms. Canini said that she wanted the blame to go up the chain of command, beyond the two men in charge of the Barberi that day

"I want anybody who's accountable for the happenings, the goings-on for the ferry, people doing their job, not doing their job," she said. "Absolutely, it should go all the way."

Mr. Ryan and Mr. Mauldin are still serving in the same positions they held before the accident, but a new chief operations officer for the ferry, Capt. James C. DeSimone, was brought in by the city to take charge of the operation.

Mr. Gansas was fired from the ferry last November for refusing to cooperate with investigators. Mr. Smith has been suspended without pay since the accident.

The city is facing more than 100 civil suits from the crash. Last week, one victim, Laura Diaz, 41, who fractured her leg and pelvis, settled with the city for $1.125 million, the largest settlement so far.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

August 5th, 2004, 05:41 AM
August 5, 2004

Ferry Director Is Charged by U.S. in Fatal Accident


After a nearly 10-month investigation into the fatal crash of a Staten Island ferry in October, federal prosecutors unsealed indictments yesterday that placed the blame for the disaster squarely on the city's director of ferry operations, as well as on the ship's pilot that day.

Taking an unusual, two-pronged approach to prosecuting one of the worst mass transit catastrophes in New York City's history, Roslynn R. Mauskopf, the United States attorney in Brooklyn, announced charges of seaman's manslaughter against both men, using the common term for an obscure legal statute alleging criminal negligence or recklessness that leads to death at sea.

The law, which dates to 1838, can be used to prosecute ship's officers, as well as executives in the corporation that owns the vessel, in this case the City of New York.

In laying out the charges, Ms. Mauskopf offered new details of what happened on the ferry that day, and painted a picture of management lapses that she said had led to the accident.

Most prominent among the five people charged in the case is Patrick Ryan, 52, the director of ferry operations at the time of the accident. He is expected to be arraigned today on 11 counts of seaman's manslaughter, one for each person killed as a result of the crash of the ferry, the Andrew J. Barberi, on Oct. 15.

He is also to be arraigned on three counts of lying to investigators who questioned him about the crash and about the ferry's operating rules and procedures, including one requiring both pilots to be in the wheelhouse at all times. At the time of the crash, only one was present.

Ms. Mauskopf was scathing yesterday in her criticism of Mr. Ryan, saying his lapses included a failure to enforce the two-pilot rule, a longstanding policy that she says could have prevented the crash.

"This was a tragedy waiting to happen," she said. "The crash of the Barberi had foreseeable causes that Patrick Ryan saw and ignored."

Mr. Ryan's lawyer, William Fitzpatrick, reiterated his client's contention that he had distributed copies of the two-pilot rule to crews.

In a surprising turn of events, the Barberi's captain, Michael J. Gansas, who initially drew scrutiny because witnesses said he was not in the wheelhouse at the time of the crash, was charged only with lying to investigators. Prosecutors decided that Mr. Gansas, who was fired after the crash, was not responsible for being in the wheelhouse because the two-pilot rule was not being enforced.

The port captain, John Mauldin, who is Mr. Ryan's brother-in-law and was one of two supervisors who helped him oversee daily operations, was charged with obstruction of justice and lying to investigators.

Before Mr. Mauskopf's news conference, Richard J. Smith, 55, the ship's pilot, who was alone at the controls at the time of the accident, pleaded guilty yesterday in Federal District Court in Brooklyn to 11 counts of seaman's manslaughter, one for each crash victim, as well as to lying in a medical report he filed with the Coast Guard to renew his pilot's license in 2000. His doctor, William Tursi, also faces charges of lying in that medical report.

Although each count of seaman's manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, Judge Edward R. Korman told Mr. Smith that he most likely faced 33 to 41 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.

The two-pilot rule became crucial on the day of the accident because of what happened to Mr. Smith, who lost consciousness as he was guiding the Barberi into the Staten Island terminal, causing the ship to crash into a concrete maintenance pier.

Appearing rumpled and tentative in a beige suit, Mr. Smith, who resigned yesterday, told Judge Korman that he was tired when he reported to work that day, a result of yardwork he had done at home. He was also having severe back pain, a chronic problem. "I was so tired and in such pain, I was not in proper physical condition to operate the Staten Island ferry," he said.

More important in the minds of prosecutors, Mr. Smith admitted he had been taking tramadol, a prescription painkiller that can cause drowsiness, dizziness and confusion, as well as an over-the-counter medicine that included diphenhydramine, also known to lead to drowsiness.

As a result, Mr. Smith said, he lost consciousness as the ship approached the St. George terminal, causing it to drift off course and crash into the pier.

An assistant United States attorney, Andrew Frisch, detailed a long list of medications that investigators later discovered Mr. Smith had been taking before the accident, including drugs for high blood pressure and insomnia. In 2000, however, when he applied to the Coast Guard to renew his pilot's license, he wrote "none" in the medications section of his medical report and did not check off high blood pressure as one of his problems, Mr. Frisch said. The name of his physician, Dr. Tursi, is signed on the report.

"I just didn't want the Coast Guard to know," Mr. Smith told the judge. "I was worried about my job."

Mr. Frisch pointed out that Mr. Smith was taking the tramadol, for back pain, when he filed the report; the drug would have disqualified him from piloting the ferry.

After the plea, the relatives of several victims called the potential sentence woefully inadequate.

"That comes to like three months a victim," said Vincent Ferrante Sr., whose son Vincent Jr. was killed. "That's no kind of justice."

The charges against Mr. Ryan center on his performance as the ferry's director. The indictment against him says that the two-pilot rule, in existence since 1958, was reissued in 1977 and most recently in 1988.

"The directors of ferry operations took this rule quite seriously," Ms. Mauskopf said, explaining that they handed it out to crew members and trained them to follow it.

But by the mid-1990's, when Mr. Ryan became director of ferry operations, the rule had lapsed, Ms. Mauskopf said. "The practices of captains and assistant captains varied widely," she said. "Some rode together. Others did not. The rules were not disseminated, not routinely observed and not enforced."

In 2002, Mr. Ryan, who was writing up standard operating procedures for the ferry, sent a draft to higher-ups in the City Department of Transportation and to the Coast Guard, but he never gave them to crew members, she said.

Mr. Fitzpatrick, Mr. Ryan's lawyer, insisted that his client had distributed ferry rules sometime after Sept. 11, 2001.

"He says he recalls distributing those directives through the normal method of distribution, which was to put them in envelopes, with the name of each ferryboat, to be picked up by crew members and brought on the boats," he said in a telephone interview. "That's the way most regulations and notices were distributed."

Mr. Ryan's impression, according to Mr. Fitzpatrick, was that the rule was being followed by most crews. Mr. Ryan was suspended without pay from his job yesterday.

Mr. Mauldin, the port captain, was charged with lying to investigators in claiming that the rules were distributed. His lawyer, Nicholas DeFeis, insisted again yesterday that the rules had been handed out. Mr. Mauldin was suspended without pay.

Donald J. Kennedy, a maritime law specialist with Carter Ledyard & Milburn in Manhattan, said he could find only two cases in which people other than a ship's officers had been charged under the seaman's manslaughter law: in 1904, when several company executives were indicted after the General Slocum, an excursion steamer, caught fire in the East River and more than 1,000 people aboard died, and in 1993, when the owner of a cargo ship, the Golden Venture, was indicted after trying to smuggle 300 illegal Chinese immigrants into the country, 10 of them drowning when the ship ran aground.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

August 6th, 2004, 02:20 AM
August 6, 2004

City Seeks to Limit Its Liability in Ferry Crash


Patrick Ryan, right, former ferry operations director, leaving federal court in Brooklyn yesterday. He pleaded not guilty in the ferry crash case.

As Patrick Ryan, New York City's former director of ferry operations, stood before a magistrate in Federal District Court yesterday to be arraigned on charges of seaman's manslaughter, a lawyer being paid by the city stood at his side.

At least symbolically, the arrangement - the lawyer is Thomas Fitzpatrick, a former criminal division chief in the United States attorney's office in Manhattan - spoke volumes about the extent to which the city's financial fortunes are now tied up in the fate of its former ferry manager, who was formally charged yesterday afternoon in the fatal crash of the Staten Island ferry in October.

More than 180 victims and their families have filed claims against the city totaling $3.3 billion, and the city has already paid out nearly $1.8 million in settlements. "I think they're on thin ice," said Donald J. Kennedy, a maritime law specialist with Carter, Ledyard & Milburn in Manhattan, referring to the legal landscape facing the city.

After a nearly 10-month investigation, Roslynn R. Mauskopf, the United States attorney in Brooklyn, identified Mr. Ryan, as well as the ship's pilot, Richard J. Smith, as the two main culprits in the disaster.

Soon after Ms. Mauskopf announced charges against the former ferry director and four others on Wednesday, the city's corporation counsel, Michael A. Cardozo, issued a strongly worded statement defending Mr. Ryan.

Mr. Cardozo said in the statement that improvements to ferry operations had been made since the crash.

"But the fact that the ferry operation can be, has been and will be improved, does not mean, and we do not believe, that Capt. Patrick Ryan was guilty of manslaughter in the performance of his duties as director of ferry operations, as the indictment alleges," he said. "Patrick Ryan has been a respected and loyal employee who brought about many improvements to the ferry over his long history of service."

Prosecutors argue that Mr. Ryan failed to enforce a longstanding ferry rule that two licensed pilots must be in the wheelhouse at all times. If the rule had been enforced, the accident, in which 11 people were killed, could have been prevented, Ms. Mauskopf said.

Cheering Mr. Ryan's indictment outside the United States attorney's office on Wednesday were several of the dozens of personal injury lawyers who have filed civil suits against the city on behalf of victims.

Of more than 180 claims already filed, 33 cases have so far been settled for a total of $1.75 million, including one for a woman who fractured her leg and pelvis and settled for $1.125 million.

City officials are pinning much of their hopes for preventing payouts from ballooning out of control on a motion that city lawyers filed in December, which invoked a 19th-century maritime statute that limits the liability of the owner of a vessel in a crash in certain cases. The motion, if successful, would limit the city's total liability to the price of the vessel in the crash, the Andrew J. Barberi, or about $14.4 million.

The statute, however, turns on how much the owner of the vessel - in this case, the City of New York - knew about the cause of the crash or contributed to it, legal experts said yesterday.

"A typical example would be, a vessel somehow manages to hit another vessel," said Lizabeth L. Burrell, a maritime lawyer. "The reason it hits the other vessel is because it didn't follow traffic patterns indicated on a chart. If the reason the traffic patterns were not followed was the pilot was not provided adequate and modern charts by the owner, then the owner might be deemed responsible for the accident."

Therefore, a motion to limit liability under the statute would fail, she added. The issue becomes more murky, however, when it comes to corporate ownership of vessels, as opposed to individual owners. Corporations, of course, cannot act except through individuals, employees who are not technically owners but can be considered extensions of the corporation.

The city might be able successfully to limit its liability by placing the blame for the crash on mistakes made by the ship's pilot, who pleaded guilty Wednesday for his part in the crash. But Ms. Burrell said that the city would have a harder time if its director of ferry operations is found to be negligent.

"It's a different thing when you're talking about the director of ferry operations, because that is a managerial post of such consequence that the knowledge or negligence of that individual might well be attributed to the owner," she said.

Mr. Ryan and John Mauldin, a former port captain, who was arraigned yesterday on charges of lying to investigators, pleaded not guilty, as did Dr. William Tursi, a doctor who treated the boat's pilot and was charged with lying on a medical report.

City officials said yesterday that they would continue to evaluate whether it should continue paying Mr. Ryan's legal bills, as well as those of Mr. Mauldin. For now, though, they said they would continue to do so.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

August 9th, 2004, 08:28 AM
Ferry big has angel in Mike


Mayor Bloomberg angrily defended the city's use of tax dollars to pay the legal bills for the Staten Island ferry director charged with manslaughter in last year's deadly crash.

When asked whether he was concerned about backing Patrick Ryan with city money, Bloomberg snapped: "I'm not concerned. It's my decision."

The Daily News reported yesterday that Ryan knew ferry pilot Richard Smith ignored federal maritime safety regulations twice in 1995 and never reprimanded him.

Smith was piloting the Andrew J. Barberi on Oct. 15 when he passed out. The ferry slammed into a concrete pier, killing 11 people.

"It's shocking," said City Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan). "If there were coverups of people's behavior, it's unacceptable."

"The city needs to do whatever it can to protect itself," Miller added. "But it is important to make sure that riders are safe and that there is a clear message being sent that people are being held accountable."

Ryan was indicted on 11 counts of manslaughter last week by federal prosecutors, who said he failed to enforce rules requiring both a captain and assistant captain in each ferry's pilothouse.
Smith pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges last week, and could face as little as 33 months behind bars - or three months a life, as some loved ones of those killed see it.

Meanwhile, the ferry's captain, Michael Gansas, was charged last week with lying to the Coast Guard and city cops. He was not in the Staten Island wheelhouse of the Andrew J. Barberi at the time of the crash.

Sources have said Gansas is considering a plea deal. He could become a key witness against Ryan, who is still collecting his $88,894 salary.

City officials have defended Ryan as a "respected and loyal employee" who did nothing wrong. The city so far has doled out $42,000 to Ryan's lawyer.

A guilty verdict against Ryan could mean a liability nightmare for the city, which has been hit with more than $3 billion in claims stemming from the ferry disaster.

With Veronika Belenkaya
Originally published on August 9, 2004

All contents 2004 Daily News, L.P.

August 13th, 2004, 10:18 AM


August 13, 2004 -- Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to put the brakes on all lawsuits related to the fatal Staten Island Ferry crash until criminal charges against two supervisors can be resolved.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Hruska argued that going forward with the civil cases would jeopardize the "inextricably intertwined" prosecutions of Patrick Ryan, former ferry operations director, and port captain John Mauldin.

"Testimony of the same ferry employees, same ferry managers and same Department of Transportation executives on the same facts are likely to be relevant to both criminal and civil matters," Hruska wrote in a letter to magistrate Judge Viktor Pohorelsky.

Ryan pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of manslaughter charges last week. He and Mauldin, his brother-in-law, also pleaded not guilty to obstruction of justice by lying to federal investigators.

In opposing the request, lawyer Anthony Bisignano said an indefinite stay would create a "grave injustice" by leaving the victims and their families in "a state of legal limbo."

The pilot, Richard Smith, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter for losing consciousness at the helm on Oct. 15, and plowing the ferry Andrew J. Barberi into a pier at St. George Terminal. Eleven people were killed.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc.

March 9th, 2005, 06:56 AM
March 9, 2005

U.S. Scolds City Officials and Coast Guard for Ferry Crash

By SEWELL CHAN (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=SEWELL%20CHAN&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=SEWELL%20CHAN&inline=nyt-per)

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/w.gifASHINGTON, March 8 - Federal investigators examining the fatal crash of a Staten Island ferry in 2003 issued a damning assessment Tuesday of the New York City Department of Transportation, saying its oversight of the second busiest ferry system in the country was compromised by inadequate training and the nearly nonexistent enforcement of basic safety rules.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which took 16 months to investigate the crash, was unsparing in its criticism of the city's management of the ferries, and depicted its operation as beset by an almost reckless lack of proper procedures.

"Where risk can lead to catastrophic loss of life, there is little room for such complacency," the safety board's chairwoman, Ellen Engleman Conners, said after a three-hour board meeting. "No matter your safety record, no matter how many years of operations, safety must be job No. 1."

The board also criticized the United States Coast Guard, which oversees the licensing of the ferry pilots who operate in New York harbor, saying it failed to ensure that the pilot in the New York crash was medically fit to perform his duties, and that its broader effort to monitor the health and ability of ferry pilots in New York and elsewhere was inadequate.

On Oct. 15, 2003, the ferry Andrew J. Barberi, cruising at full speed, struck a maintenance pier near the St. George terminal on Staten Island, killing 11 passengers and injuring 70 others. It was the first deadly accident in the history of the ferry operation, which began in 1905 and has an annual ridership of 19 million, second only to the Washington State ferry system.

The crash set off a criminal investigation that led to charges against four city employees, including manslaughter charges against the assistant captain who lost control of the ferry and the city's director of ferry operations.

It also resulted in 191 civil lawsuits, totaling more than $3.3 billion in claims. The city comptroller, William C. Thompson Jr., announced Tuesday that 66 of the cases have been settled for a total of $2.4 million. None of the settlements involved the 11 fatalities.

The report by the safety board, an independent federal panel, echoed many of the findings of an independent report on the city's ferry operation by the Global Maritime and Transportation School. The city hired the school, part of the United States Merchant Marine Academy, to review the operations of the ferry system, and it has adopted many of the school's recommendations for improving safety, made in February 2004.

"Oct. 15, 2003, was one of the darkest and saddest days of my tenure as the commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation," Commissioner Iris Weinshall said after the meeting Tuesday. "Though, like any mass transit system, we are not immune to safety problems, we have a safety record of which I am very proud. But this history cannot undo the tragedy that occurred nearly 17 months ago."

By October, she said, the department will have hired 95 additional ferry employees and installed new navigational and communications devices on all vessels.

The board's report acknowledged the city's steps toward improvement, but was stinging nonetheless. It faulted everything from the lack of first-aid training among ferry workers to the absence of a formal, comprehensive safety management system.

Additionally, the board said that ferry officials had not made sure that the eight pages of established procedures for ferry employees were distributed or even read, and that training for workers was provided other than on the job.

The board formally expanded the scope of its criticism to include the Coast Guard, which had not come under serious scrutiny in the aftermath of the accident.

The report found fault with the Coast Guard's less than rigorous system for screening and overseeing the health of the pilots it licensed, and used the case of the Barberi's pilot to underscore its shortcomings.

The board, which said the 2003 crash was caused by the "unexplained incapacitation" of the pilot, Richard J. Smith, noted that he had suffered from a variety of ailments - hypertension, insomnia and back pain among them - and was taking medication for some or all of them.

Little if any of this was known to the Coast Guard, which had granted Mr. Smith his license. The Coast Guard, the board found, had not required Mr. Smith to notify it of changes in his physical condition or drug regimen.

The Coast Guard requires annual physical examinations of each mariner, but the board said that its program allowed for "doctor shopping" by mariners with health problems who might want to keep their ailments secret.

Mr. Smith, who attempted suicide immediately after the crash, pleaded guilty to manslaughter last August but has not been sentenced. His physician, William Tursi, is to be tried in June for lying to officials about Mr. Smith's medical condition.

Dr. Mitchell A. Garber, the medical officer in the safety board's investigation, said that even if Mr. Smith's health problems had been disclosed, they might not have prevented him from serving as a ferry pilot. Because the Coast Guard leaves the certification of mariners to regional evaluation centers that have widely varying standards, he said, "we have some concern that had these things been revealed, the individual might have received certification nonetheless."

Dr. Garber was critical as well of the Coast Guard's haphazard system of recording information about mariners, saying it lacked anything as formal as a searchable database.

A spokeswoman for the Coast Guard said it could not comment on any of the board's findings and recommendations until its commanders had read the full report. "We're reviewing the recommendations right now," the spokeswoman, Jolie Shifflet, said. She said the Coast Guard, which is responsible for granting credentials to hundreds of ferry pilots across the country, had records on 220,000 mariners, although many of them might not be active.

The investigation did make one finding that could play a role in the federal prosecution of the director of ferry operations, Patrick Ryan, who is to be tried next month on manslaughter charges. The government has asserted that the city neglected for decades to enforce a rule requiring two people to be in a ferry's pilothouse at all times. Only Mr. Smith, the assistant captain, was at the controls at the time of the crash.

The safety board found that the captain, Michael J. Gansas, had contributed to the accident when he "failed to exercise his command responsibilities."

But the board concluded in its report that the two-pilot rule was not clear. "The particular procedure was open to a variety of interpretations on the part of ferry supervisors and on the part of ferry crew members themselves," said Barry Strauch, an official in the safety board's office of marine safety.

Ms. Conners, the board's chairwoman, said, "There was great interpretation of what the rule was or was not, how it was implemented and how it was disseminated."

A spokesman for the United States attorney in Brooklyn, who is prosecuting the case, said he could not comment on the findings.

The board even criticized the ferry crew's response after the crash. Rob Jones, a board employee, described the response to the crash as chaotic. "At no time during the accident did anyone take overall command," he said.

And the board's vice chairman, Mark V. Rosenker, said, "I am still kind of surprised about the lack of training - in any way, shape or form - in basic first aid for crew members."

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

January 10th, 2006, 01:04 PM
Pilot and Supervisor Sentenced in '03 Staten Island Ferry Crash

By WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM&inline=nyt-per) and SEWELL CHAN (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=SEWELL CHAN&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=SEWELL CHAN&inline=nyt-per)

Published: January 10, 2006

The Staten Island Ferry pilot who passed out at the helm in 2003, causing a crash that killed 11 people and seriously injured dozens of others, and his supervisor were each sentenced to more than a year in prison yesterday.

The sentences - 18 months for the pilot, and a year and a day for his supervisor - were handed down by Edward R. Korman, the chief judge in United States District Court in Brooklyn, after a two-hour, emotionally wrenching hearing.

Tearful family members blamed the city for the crash and pleaded for stiff sentences, recalling the dead and speaking keenly about the grief and devastation to their families. The pilot, a former assistant captain, Richard J. Smith, made an impassioned speech, apologizing to the families, taking responsibility for the crash and the deaths and describing how he tried to kill himself right after the crash on Oct. 15, 2003.

Mr. Smith, 57, who pleaded guilty in August 2004 to 11 counts of seaman's manslaughter, as well as concealing his use of pain medication, read a statement in which he said he took painkillers the night before because of a bad back and was too exhausted to work.

"I will regret for the rest of my life that I did not call in sick," he said, adding that the decision "set this whole nightmare into motion."

When he passed out, the ferry, the Andrew J. Barberi, slammed into a concrete maintenance pier near the St. George's Terminal on Staten Island. That tore open the side of the vessel, killing and maiming many of the 1,500 passengers on board.

"I was on the wheel," he said. "I am responsible. I failed in my responsibilities to my ferry passengers and I stand ready to accept the consequences."

After hearing the families of the dead speak, his supervisor, Patrick Ryan, 53, the former ferry director, who had pleaded guilty in April 2005 to one count of seaman's manslaughter and also to making false statements, declined to read a statement he had prepared. But upon prodding from Judge Korman, he briefly offered his condolences.

"For my part of this, I am so terribly sorry," he told the families, who packed the courtroom's gallery, adding that the nightmares were "going to haunt me forever."

Mr. Ryan's crime was that he failed to enforce the city's two-pilot rule, which required that the captain of the vessel, along with the assistant captain, be in the wheelhouse when the boat docked.

At times, Mr. Smith, seated between two of his lawyers, seemed close to losing his composure as family members of five of the dead - and one injured man - spoke. The silver-haired Mr. Ryan rested his chin in his hand.

The family members approached the bench and addressed the judge, in some cases leaning on one another, caressing one another, and passing tissues around as some wept.

Christine Santoro, a sister of John A. Valinski, 40, a carpet installer who died, said her brother, the youngest of three children, the only boy and the light of her mother's life, "was so mangled and maimed that we could not see his body. All of you played a part in all of these people's deaths."

"Who are you to take God into your hands and take those innocent lives into your hands?" she said. "Shame on you."

Her sister, Deborah Palamara, said their brother's body was identified only through a photo of a tattoo on his arm because his body was so torn. "You are no better than a drunk driver, and if you were so tired, you should not have been piloting that day," she said.

Kristen Bagarozza, 12, a slender girl with long brown hair, walked up to the judge's bench with her mother, her head held high. An only child, she talked proudly about her father, Joseph Bagarozza, 35, a stock trader who, like most of the families, lived on Staten Island. "My dad was a great man," she said. "He may not have been rich, but he was rich in his love for his family."

Judge Korman, who appeared moved both by the families of the dead and by Mr. Smith's remorse, disregarded a request by the prosecution to mete out longer prison terms than those in the federal sentencing guidelines and a request by the defense for shorter sentences. Instead, he hewed closely to the guidelines - which provided a range of 12 to 18 months for Mr. Smith and 6 to 12 months for Mr. Ryan. He also disregarded a report from the chief federal probation officer in Brooklyn that suggested three months for Mr. Smith and six for Mr. Ryan.

Judge Korman said he had concluded that Mr. Smith had suffered greatly from his own actions.

"Fundamentally, what you just heard in his statement was not an act," the judge said. "He is a broken person as a result of this event. And beyond whatever sentence I impose, he will suffer for whatever he did for the rest of his life."

In his plea, Mr. Smith admitted to recklessness, but Judge Korman found that he was instead negligent, a lesser offense, because the government had failed to prove that the pain medication was more likely than not the cause of his loss of consciousness.

Roslynn R. Mauskopf, the United States attorney in Brooklyn, who oversaw the case, said she was disappointed with that finding and said she would consider an appeal. "Richard Smith knew that day that he was in no shape to pilot the Staten Island Ferry. For that, he was reckless," she said.

But the families seemed somewhat satisfied, perhaps because the sentences were well beyond those in the probation recommendation. "Of course, nothing could possibly be enough," said Debra Canini, whose husband, Pio Canini, a 52-year-old carpenter, was killed. But she said she was satisfied.

"The sentences are better than what I anticipated," Ms. Palamara said. "I was expecting they would get next to nothing."

After sentencing Mr. Ryan, Judge Korman questioned whether the supervisor was in fact guilty of the crime in his plea, calling it "a very close case" whether he was willfully negligent. Because Judge Korman sentenced him to a year and a day, instead of a year, Mr. Ryan could be credited for good behavior, meaning he could be released after 10 months.

Both men will surrender on Feb. 21 to begin serving their terms.

November 15th, 2006, 04:42 PM
http://www.silive.com/images/advance/siadvance.gif (http://www.silive.com/advance/)
http://www.silive.com/images/spacer.gifhttp://www.silive.com/images/spacer.gif$8M sought for tug's help after ferry crash

Owner says he risked his crew to keep the Andrew J. Barberi stable for rescuers and investigators in 2003

Saturday, November 04, 2006 ADVANCE STAFF REPORT

The mate and owner of a tugboat that was first to respond to the deadly Staten Island Ferry crash three years ago have filed lawsuits totaling $8 million, contending their rescue efforts should be rewarded.

On the day of the 2003 crash, which ultimately claimed 11 lives, mate Robert G. Seckers was awaiting orders to move an oil barge for the city when he noticed the ferryboat Andrew J. Barberi barreling toward a concrete maintenance pier in St. George, where it crashed.

When he could not make radio contact with the ferry crew, Seckers maneuvered his tug, the Dorothy J., and lassoed the ferry to pull it back into its slip.

"I put the crew in jeopardy," Seckers, 59, who now lives and works in Chesapeake, Va., told the New York Law Journal. "It was another decision that I made, right or wrong, to try to prevent the Barberi from drifting any farther south. There were people bleeding to death."

Though the Barberi dwarfed the Dorothy J., Seckers defied what he said was the city's warnings not to remain tied up to the ferry in case it sank and brought the tug down with it, and instead stayed with the Barberi for 66 hours, running the tug's own engine to keep the boat stable while rescue workers and investigators were aboard.

Now Seckers is asking for $2 million for his troubles in Brooklyn's federal District Court, and the tugboat company, Henry Marine, is seeking another $6 million.

The claims are made under a maritime law of "pure marine salvage," which entitles vessels to an award for coming to the aid of fellow vessels in distress.

To qualify for such a reward, the rescuer must show that the salvaged vessel was in danger of being lost or destroyed, that voluntary service was rendered and that the efforts were successful.

But the city disputes the claim, arguing the tugboat crew were required to act.

"Henry Marine Services was required by their contract to provide emergency services to city vessels," said Gina M. Venezia, the attorney handling the salvage case for the city. The ferry was not in jeopardy of sinking, especially when it was docked, Ms. Venezia said, and the tugboat company is entitled only to the rate of $239 per hour outlined in its contract with the city.

The city's Law Department has settled 110 out of 191 claims and paid $16 million, mostly in claims from victims and their families.