Mechanical failure caused a Staten Island ferry to crash into the St. George terminal pier, police, fire and Coast Guard officials said. Thirty-seven people were injured, Janette Sadik-Khan, the city transportation commissioner, said at a news conference on Staten Island .
Jim Long, a Fire Department spokesman, said that 17 people had been taken to area hospitals, with the most serious case involving a woman who was experiencing chest pains and had difficulty breathing. "The other 20 will be evaluated, treated and they could be transported to hospitals," he said. Among the injured were two police officers assigned to the ferry for security duties.
Officials said that the crash appeared to have been caused by mechanical failure – when pilots were unable to pull back on the throttle as the vessel was approaching the dock.
"I want to distinguish between the 2003 incident – where it was not a mechanical failure," Ms. Sadik-Khan said. "This is a very different situation."
The ferry was approaching the dock at regular speed, 5 knots, when the pilots realized that they could not operate the ferry as usual. They had enough time for crew to warn passengers and begin moving people away from what would have been the chief point of impact – the front deck. Ramps were brought down to brace the boat from impact.
Deputy Chief Stephen Tanzosh, of the New York Fire Department, said the key to limiting injuries was quick action by crew members as soon as they saw something was awry.
"Once they realized that they were going too fast or something was going wrong, they moved the people to the back and that made all the difference in the world," Chief Tanzosh said.
Charles Rowe, a spokesman for the Coast Guard, said that there were 252 passengers and 18 crew members on board.
Ferry service has resumed, according to Mr. Rowe, but Slip 5, where the crash occurred, has been closed.