NEW YORK — A Staten Island ferry with a history of accidents, including a fatal wreck in 2003, malfunctioned as it approached its terminal Saturday and smashed into a pier with a jolt that tossed passengers to the deck and hurt as many as 37 people.
The accident happened at around 9:20 a.m. as the Andrew J. Barberi arrived at the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island, carrying 252 passengers and 18 crew.
Passenger Jason Watler, 30, of St. George, said he became alarmed when the ferry approached the shore faster than usual and ran toward the back of the boat.
"It was not slowing down," he said. "He was going too fast."
Then, he heard a "a real big boom."
"I stumbled a little bit," he said. "People were screaming. People were crying."
The accident appeared to be the result of a mechanical failure, Janette Sadik-Khan, New York City Department of Transportation commissioner, said.
The approximately 3,000-ton, 310-foot-long ferry was moving at about 5 knots, or 5.8 mph, when it hit.
Coast Guard officials said the ferry suffered serious damage to its ramps and gouges in the decks above the waterline. Ramps on the pier were also damaged.
Fire Department spokesman James Long said 37 passengers were treated. He said 35 were taken to hospitals, but none had life-threatening injuries. Of those, 34 were treated and released and one remained hospitalized for further evaluation, Long said.
The Andrew Barberi was also involved in a 2003 wreck that killed 11 people. That accident occurred when the pilot, suffering from extreme fatigue and on painkillers, passed out at the wheel and the boat hit the terminal in St. George at full speed. The ferry returned to service after a multimillion-dollar rehabilitation.
The pilot pleaded guilty to negligent manslaughter and lying to investigators. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison. The city ferry director was sentenced to a year in prison after pleading guilty to negligent manslaughter and admitting he failed to implement or enforce a rule requiring two pilots during docking.