S.I. Ferry Rider to Sue City for $5M After Crash

Queens construction worker claims he hurt his back

Tuesday, May 11, 2010  |  Updated 12:53 PM EDT
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One of the passengers on the <a title=Staten Island ferry that crashed captured the hectic scene as emergency personnel rush to help victims." />

Dwayne Forrest

One of the passengers on the Staten Island ferry that crashed captured the hectic scene as emergency personnel rush to help victims.

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S.I. Ferry Crash: Passenger Reactions, Raw Video

Passengers on the Staten Island ferry that crashed into a pier at the terminal, injuring dozens, Saturday morning describe the experience.
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A Queens man aboard the Staten Island Ferry boat that injured more than three dozen passengers when it slammed into a pier on Saturday will sue the city for $5 million for injuries he claims he sustained during the crash, according to a report.

Construction worker Flabio Silva, 50, told the Daily News he hurt his back when the Andrew J. Barberi malfunctioned and smashed into the St. George Terminal over the weekend. He plans to file his multi-million-dollar lawsuit against the city today. 

The Barberi is the same boat that crashed full speed into the same terminal in 2003, killing 11 people and injuring a dozen others. The boat returned to service in July 2004 after undergoing extensive renovations, and authorities said it was merely a coincidence – albeit a disturbing one – that the vessel was involved in another accident.

Silva told the News he didn't realize the ferry had been put back into service. His attorney, Sanford Rubenstein, who represented half a dozen victims from the 2003 crash, said it was "incredible" the vessel crashed again.

"The City of New York is responsible for the action of its employees, the crew and the operation and maintenance of this boat," Rubenstein told the News.

Silva, along with 30-something other passengers, was hospitalized and treated for his injuries. But he told the News he still struggles to move comfortably – and given his job as a construction worker, he's concerned about his livelihood.

A spokeswoman for the city's law department says the city hasn't seen any legal filings at this point,  but will be sure to conduct a thorough review of any papers it may receive.

"We have not received any legal papers yet, but we will certainly review all claims thoroughly," Kate Ahlers, media and communications director for the New York City Law Department, told NBC New York.

Federal investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board are interviewing the assistant captain they say was at the helm of the ferry when it crashed last weekend, and other crewmembers. They're also expected to talk to passengers.

City Department of Transportation spokesman Seth Solomonow said the captain of the vessel was on the bridge at the time of the crash. The ferry was carrying 252 passengers and about 18 crew when it crashed at the St. George Ferry Terminal on Saturday. Thirty-seven passengers were hurt, but none seriously.

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.

The 2003 accident occurred when the pilot, suffering from extreme fatigue and on painkillers, passed out at the wheel. He pleaded guilty to negligent manslaughter and lying to investigators, and 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.

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