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Staten Island Ferry crash injures dozens

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Ferry passenger: Crash was 'chaos'
  • NEW: At least 36 people hurt, one seriously, in Staten Island Ferry crash, authorities say
  • NEW: There were conflicting accounts on the number of people injured
  • Ferry captain unable to slow down, says transit official
  • Impact with dock leaves two gashes in hull of vessel

New York (CNN) -- A ferry boat that apparently had mechanical problems crashed into the Staten Island Ferry terminal Saturday morning, leaving at least 36 people injured, including one seriously, authorities said.

The ferry boat, the Andrew J. Barberi, was the same vessel involved in an October 2003 crash that killed 11 people and injured 42, U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman Barbara Miller said.

There were conflicting accounts on the number of people injured in Saturday's crash: Spokesman Christian Preston of Staten Island University Hospital said the facility was evaluating six adults and three children for injuries that were not life-threatening, and a spokesman for Richmond University Medical Center said 28 people from the accident were being treated in the emergency room for mostly minor injuries. A news release from the city's Department of Transportation said 36 people were transported to local hospitals, most with minor injuries.

The vessel was carrying 252 passengers and 18 crew members at the time of the crash, Miller said.

Janette Sadik-Khan, the commissioner of the city's Department of Transportation, said at a news conference that about one minute before the ferry reached the terminal, the captain sounded an alarm because he was unable to pull back on the throttle to slow down the boat.

At that time, crew members tried to move passengers to the back of the vessel, said Staten Island Ferry Chief Operating Officer James DeSimone. The boat was approaching the terminal at normal speed -- 5 knots, or about 5.7 miles per hour -- when the accident occurred around 9 a.m., Sadik-Khan said.

"As soon as we got to the port it just slammed right into the dock and pushed everybody back. It was chaos, pandemonium. It was something like I've never been through in my life," passenger Alex Gonzalez told CNN affiliate New York 1.

New York Fire Department Deputy Chief Bill Tanzosh said the impact left two breaches in the hull about 17 feet above the water line. One measured about 4 feet by 6 feet and the other was 4 feet by 4 feet, he said.

Video from New York 1 showed rescue workers at the scene, carrying people on stretchers.

Five ferries carry about 65,000 passengers daily on a 5.2-mile run between Staten Island and the southern tip of Manhattan.

About three hours after the accident, the ferry schedules were getting back on track, Sadik-Khan said.

CNN's Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.