A Seastreak commuter ferry collided with multiple docks this morning, leaving a hole in the ship and more than fifty passengers injured. At least 57 people were being treated, nine for serious injuries, and two in critical condition. One man was reportedly thrown down a flight of stairs by the impact. He was rushed into surgery and has been upgraded to stable condition.
One passenger described the moment before impact to Channel 7 Eyewitness News: "Once you basically pass the Statue of Liberty, you pretty much know that you're going to be there soon, so a lot of people start standing up, milling around, getting their coats and everything like that. Anybody who was standing went to the ground."
According to Eyewitness News, the ship was just recently put back into service after suffering damage from Hurricane Sandy. The New York Post reports, through hearsay, that the boat's captains had been complaining lately about its maneuverability. The ship also had its propulsion system modified in the past year from water jets to new propellers that boosted fuel efficiency and cut the ship's maximum speed.
Obviously, at this point, the cause of the crash is under investigation. The ship "came in hot," according to witnesses, but the reason for the excessive speed could be anything from operator error to equipment malfunction. The former seems somewhat less likely, as the captain is a 10-year veteran and all members of the ship's crew passed Breathalyzer tests administered on-scene.
As for the potential equipment malfunction, the key information, from a legal standpoint, is the allegation that the ship's operators had noticed reduced maneuverability in recent times. If the Seastreak's management company knew about the ship malfunctioning and continued with business as usual without proper inspections or maintenance, they could be facing a pretty significant negligence lawsuit.
In order to prove negligence, the injured passengers would have to show that the Seastreak's staff breached their duty to properly inspect and maintain their vessels in a manner consistent with what a reasonable ferry operator would have done. Obviously, if they ignored reports of maneuverability issues, that would probably be sufficient. However, that allegation came second-hand from a witness who was talking to an employee of the company while waiting for the boat to arrive. Such hearsay evidence would probably not hold up in court.
- Speak to a New York Personal Injury Attorney (FindLaw)
- Over 50 People Injured In Seastreak Commuter Ferry Accident (Gothamist)
- Remembering the 2003 Staten Island Ferry Crash (FindLaw's New York Personal Injury Law Blog)
- SI Ferry Crash Victim Awarded Over $813G (FindLaw's New York Personal Injury Law Blog)