Assistant Captain at Helm During Ferry Crash

Same boat that collided with pier in 2003, killing 11, hits dock again

Monday, May 10, 2010  |  Updated 1:20 PM EDT
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    The assistant captain was at the helm of a Staten Island ferry when it slammed into a pier on Saturday, injuring dozens of passengers, city officials said today.

    Federal investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board are interviewing assistant captain Maqbool Ahmed and other crew members of the Andrew J. Barberi ferry. They're also expected to talk to passengers who were on board Saturday's ill-fated trip.

    City Department of Transportation spokesman Seth Solomonow said Ahmed was piloting the ship, with the captain of the vessel on the bridge at the time.  The ferry was carrying 252 passengers and about 18 crew members when it crashed at the St. George Ferry Terminal on Saturday. 

    The NTSB said based on an initial interview Sunday with the chief engineer "there were no engine alarms prior to the accident'' and engine conditions appeared normal.

    Authorities say the vessel is the Andrew J. Barberi, the boat involved in a 2003 crash that killed 11 and injured dozens at the same terminal. 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 in July 2004 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.

    Ferry officials say it was pure coincidence -- albeit a disturbing one -- that the same boat involved in that fatal crash was involved in today's incident. But some were still disoriented by the connection.

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