Ferry captain reported reverse thrust fail

Jan. 10, 2013 at 8:47 PM
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NEW YORK, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Investigators said the captain of a ferry that crashed in New York, injuring 85 people, reported its thrust controls did not respond "as anticipated."

Robert Sumwalt, a board member of the National Transportation Safety Board, told reporters Thursday the captain told investigators there was no problem with the steering on the Seastreak Wall Street before the vessel crashed Wednesday as it approached Pier 11 in Highlands, N.J.

"He tried to move a thrust control into reverse but the vessel did not respond as anticipated," Sumwalt said.

The New York Post said the captain has been identified as Jason Reimer, 36, of New Jersey, who has worked for the ferry company since 1997, and has worked as a captain for 12 years.

Sumwalt said drug and alcohol tests on the captain and crew showed everyone a blood alcohol content of 0.00 percent -- "just where we want to see it." Drug tests results were not yet available, Sumwalt said.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan had previously said the Seastreak Wall Street left its pier in Highlands, N.J., Wednesday and experienced "hard landing" as it approached one slip before heading into the second slip, NY1 reported.

"We know that they hit the pier at a relatively high rate of speed," said U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Gordon Loebl, estimating the boat was traveling about 16 mph.

Officials say 326 passengers and five crew members were onboard at the time during Wednesday morning's commute. The U.S. Coast Guard said 85 people were injured.

Fire officials say 55 people were hospitalized, including one who was listed in critical condition Wednesday night, NY1 reported. Nine others were reported in serious condition.

Passengers and bystanders told CNN the ferry was tossed about like a doll when it plowed into the slip near Wall Street, hurling passengers and crew into the air and against walls, seats and windows.

"I saw a lot of bleeding heads with white bandages [and] a lot of people strapped to boards," passerby Julie Westfall said.

"It felt like we were in a car crash," passenger Elizabeth Banta said.

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