Wednesday, Jan. 9, was an otherwise normal morning commute for the 326 passengers of the Seastreak Wall Street ferry. That is, until the end of the voyage, which came abruptly as the vessel slammed into a dock in Lower Manhattan. It is unknown how fast the ferry was going at the time, but the impact was enough to tear a hole down the right side. Passengers were catapulted several feet across the deck, and it is estimated that at least 70 were injured. Two passengers are in critical condition, at least one of which received major head trauma.
The high-speed ferry left at 8 a.m. out of Highland, N.J., carrying its regular crowd of mostly white-collar employees commuting down the Hudson River to work in New York City. It was making good time as it approached the dock, and it is still unclear what may have caused the crash. Weather and river conditions were normal, and the entire crew including the pilot passed the breathalyzer tests given to them by investigators after the accident. Seastreak, a private ferry company, has said that it is working with officials to uncover the cause of the incident.
At the time of the crash, the ferry’s crew responded immediately, and emergency response teams quickly arrived to tend to the injured passengers who were bleeding and banged up from the sudden jolt, which some passengers described as akin to a car crash. One man gave an account explaining why he thinks it is likely that so many were injured:
“What happens is that the boat usually slows down a little bit, people get up to get off the boat, and that was what the problem was. When we hit the dock, everybody went flying.”
Several passengers had reportedly been waiting at the top of a stairwell aboard the ferry, and were thrown down the stairs by the crash. Despite this, those who were not standing were also affected. One woman recalled, “I was half asleep… Next thing you know, I was 10 feet from my chair.”
Investigators are still working to determine facts such as the vessel’s speed at the time of impact, but it has been estimated it may have been about 12 knots, or 14 mph. Experts say that this would have made the force of the crash on a passenger equivalent to catching a 200-pound bag of cement from a first-story window.
This is not the first time this same boat has been involved in a crash. The very same Seastreak Wall Street vessel had a similar accident in 2009 when it crashed into a dock in New Jersey.