Staten Island Ferry at Dawn

What Happened?

Last Wednesday, an East River Ferry made hard impact with a pier on Wall Street, leaving a half dozen people injured and everyone else involved a little shaken up. As the sun was setting over the South Street Seaport, a ferry operator miscalculated his approach and rammed the large transport boat into the wooden receiving-structure. A clarion crack rang out around the harbor; everyone aboard was jolted violently, and many suffered bruises, bumps, scrapes and scratches. This is just another entry in a long list of ferry accidents that have occurred over the past decade. While the injuries sustained in this latest incident were minor- it wasn’t nothing. Multiple police officers rushed to the scene, and emergency medical workers constructed ad hoc triage tents, flooding the financial district with a new, more concerning décor.

No damage to the pier was initially reported.

On-scene reactions were a little mixed. Some noted that, on the whole, the East River Ferry has been relatively safe. The fact that no one was seriously injured in this accident seems to corroborate that philosophy. On the other hand, some passengers noted that they’d complained about rough landings before, urging the East River Ferry company to instruct their ferry operators to take their approaches more gently. The rejoinder of the ferry companies is that water is intrinsically unpredictable, and last minute swells or waves are hard to anticipate and react to. Sometimes, a forceful enough last-second crest can send even large ferries slamming into piers.

Accidents aren’t always greeted with such gentle public opinion. As the next section will point out, not all ferries are created equal. Some ferry lines have much more dark track records.

 

A Brief History of Ferry Accidents

The Coast Guard, tasked with taking full reports of all nautical passenger boat accidents in the United States, has compiled years of data on the subject. A comprehensive account of what constitutes ferry accidents, what causes them, and what can be done to avoid them in the future was assembled, through the teamwork of various agencies, who culled the Coast Guard’s data and supplemented it with other investigative information. By consulting this review, we’ve been able to put together a brief history and a collection of facts about ferry accidents.

  • As we talked about briefly before, sometimes ferry accidents are brought upon by bad luck. Rivers, bays, and sounds (the typical domain of ferries) are sometimes afflicted with wave-unpredictability more commonly associated with oceans. However, research found that many accidents were caused by ferryboat captains choosing to ignore safety protocols that are set in place to protect passengers and crew alike.
  • For example, the notorious 2003 Staten Island ferry crash that killed 11 and injured many more was helmed by the selfsame captain manning the controls of another Staten Island ferry accident years earlier, which occurred in April 1995. He admitted to skirting the rules on both occasions. In one case, he may have struck a submerged rock seeking a route shortcut, in the other, he ignored speed regulations which led directly to a catastrophic collision with a pier.
  • In 2010, a ferry accident was caused when a captain-in-training was given the proverbial keys to the ship and allowed to practice his parking before he had fully completed his preparation. This sort of circumvention of hierarchy and regimentation is just as dangerous as negligence on the part of experienced captains.
  • Maybe the worst accident in ferry history was the 1978 crash of the American Legion. An astounding 200 passengers were injured in this crash, which occurred when thick fog obscured the vision of a captain who imprudently continued blindly on his course, then thumped headlong into a dense, concrete seawall near Whitehall Street Terminal.
  • Last week’s accident may’ve seemed “light” comparative to some of these other, more historic accidents. However, the Coast Guard’s report shows that similar incidents, which had low-injury tolls and no fatalities, reaped high financial costs nonetheless. Even accidents with no deaths can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

 

Kaplan Lawyers PC

Were you among the injured in this most recent ferry accident? Has some other municipal form of transportation malfunctioned and left you hurt? Has human error on the part of a civic worker caused a crash or other accident involving you or a loved one? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions it may be within your rights to sue for compensation. This compensation will help cover or subsidize the costs of your medical bills and allow you to focus solely on your recovery. At Kaplan Lawyers PC, we don’t take a fee unless you get paid- and our consultations are free. So if you believe you’ve been wronged and are unsure of what to do next- contact us today. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain.