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National Transportation Safety Board Holds Press Conference

Aired October 16, 2003 - 06:09   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: We want to head live to New York City. The National Transportation Safety Board is holding a press conference on that Staten Island ferry accident. Let's listen in.

ELLEN ENGLEMAN, NTSB CHAIRPRSON: There are a lot of conflicting stories about what happened on the bridge yesterday. Obviously, there was a tragic accident that occurred, and we want to find out exactly what happened. We'll do that through a series of witness testimony. We'll begin our witness interviews today as well. We're working closely with the Coast Guard, with the borough of Staten Island, with the Department of Transportation and the mayor's office, and we want to thank them for their excellent cooperation.

QUESTION: Have you had a chance to interview anybody such as passengers onboard, such as crew members, as well as the ferry captain?

ENGLEMAN: There were initial interviews by the Coast Guard and others yesterday to get some preliminary facts. But at this time, until the NTSB has the formal witness interviews, we'll take that information under consideration, but we'll do our own interviews beginning today.

QUESTION: Are you the lead agency in the investigation?

ENGLEMAN: The NTSB is the lead agency in the investigation. It took over the investigation formally last night at 11:00 p.m. At 8:30 this morning, we will have our first organizational meeting. The parties will be involved and that includes the Coast Guard, includes the Transit Department, the Transportation Department, the mayor's office and anyone who can offer technical assistance that's appropriate to the investigation of this accident.

QUESTION: Did the captain tell us at all whether weather played?

ENGLEMAN: Weather is always a factor of consideration in our investigations. We will be looking at weather. As you know, there were some brisk winds yesterday and that's always a factor. There are four key elements in the investigation. There are survival factors, human factors, engineering operations and deck operations.

QUESTION: Was there a voice recording device on the vessel?

ENGLEMAN: There was not. There was no voice -- there was no voice recording device on the vessel. QUESTION: Did the captain tell investigators that he fell asleep?

ENGLEMAN: We have a lot of conflicting information as far as that. We don't want to pass on stories or rumors. We're going to determine what we can find out through interviews with that individual and others as soon as possible.

QUESTION: ... certified or qualified to handle that vessel (UNINTELLIGIBLE) so last re-certified?


QUESTION: The assistant captain, when was he last re-certified to handle the vessel?

ENGLEMAN: I don't have the information as far as the actual licensing. Captain, do you have that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have it on -- I don't have it available today, but we can provide it later.

ENGLEMAN: Right. We're looking into all the records of the captains themselves, as well as the prior 72 hours in their life prior to the accident. This is part of a normal investigation for us. So we want to know what was going on for the prior 72 hours to this event.

QUESTION: Is all traffic flowing around after all this (ph)?

ENGLEMAN: We're not ready to release any of that information. As soon as we have facts and not supposition, we'll get them to you. But that's what we focus on is fact and not supposition.

QUESTION: Now the master of this vessel is clearly recuperating in a hospital somewhere. When you -- when did he (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and how essential is that to put the pieces together?

ENGLEMAN: Obviously, the parties that were on the bridge are essential to what happened. We want to get to them as soon as possible. Their safety is a consideration and so we'll do it at an appropriate time. Again, we'll begin our witness interviews today, if possible, and we will get information to you as we know more.

QUESTION: How long will the investigation take (ph)?

ENGLEMAN: The full investigation will be quite thorough. It involves a variety of processes, initial witness interviews, data collection, evidence and like. Generally, these investigations before the final report comes out will be at least a year.

QUESTION: Will the boat and all this damage stay here (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

ENGLEMAN: We're looking to have this boat moved to another place as soon as it is reasonably safe to do so. We want to ensure that the good transportation system that's important to -- for everyone here is fully recovered and able to do so. And we want to move the boat out of the way as soon as possible.

We're working very closely with the Coast Guard. The boat is being secured right now. There was significant damage to this vessel, very, very dramatic damage. We want to ensure that it is safe to move it, as well as recover any kind of evidence that we need now. It will be moved to another location. And as soon as we have that location information, we'll let you have that as well.

QUESTION: Were you able to interview the captain who is now hospitalized?

ENGLEMAN: Again, our interviews have not yet begun. We will begin them later today after our organizational meeting at 8:30. As soon as we have the parties involved, we'll make a road map, we'll determine our witness interviews and at what time and pursue them at that time.

QUESTION: Is someone permitted to have an attorney at an interview?

ENGLEMAN: Yes, they are. They are permitted to have attorneys at the interviews.

QUESTION: Not answer questions?


QUESTION: Permission to not answer questions?

ENGLEMAN: Please understand that the NTSB is an independent lead organization for the investigation of the probable cause of the accident. We're not part of law enforcement and we're not part of the judiciary. Our determination is not fault but why, what happened and why.

QUESTION: Say your name again, ma'am?

ENGLEMAN: Ellen Engleman, Chairman of the NTSB.

Thank you. Thank you.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we're going to wrap this up now. You heard from an official from the National Transportation Safety Board. Didn't have much more new information to share. Hopefully we'll have some new information to share with you later on in the day here on CNN.



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