MORE than 50 people have been injured, two critically, after a commuter ferry struck a dock in New York's financial district during rush hour.
A corner of the ferry was ripped open, and passengers fell on each other, screaming and crying. One witness said a ferry worker moments before the accident had mentioned the boat's recent trouble with manoeuvring.
Passengers aboard the Seastreak Wall Street ferry said scores of people who had been waiting to disembark were hurled to the deck by the impact. "We were pulling into the dock. The boat hit the dock. We just tumbled on top of each other. I got thrown into everybody else. ... People were hysterical," said Ellen Foran.
Firefighters were still carrying people away on stretchers an hour after the crash. Of the 11 people seriously injured, the worst had a head injury from falling down the stairs. Most of the other injuries were minor.
More than 340 passengers and crew members were aboard the ferry from New Jersey, one of many that carry commuters to the island of Manhattan.
Dee Wertz was on shore waiting for the ferry and saw the impact. She said she had been talking with a ferry employee about how the boat's captains had been complaining lately about its manoeuvrability. "He was telling me that none of these guys like this boat," she said. "It was coming in a little wobbly. It hit the right side of the boat on the dock hard, like a bomb."
After the impact, the boat was able to dock normally. She said passengers raced off once the ramp came down. "I think people just wanted to get the heck off the boat as soon as they could," she said.
The crash came just months after the ferry had a major mechanical overhaul. The marine industry magazine MarineLog reported in August that the water-jet propulsion system was replaced with a new system of propellers and rudders to save fuel costs.
In 2003, 11 people were killed when a Staten Island Ferry crashed into a city pier after its pilot passed out at the wheel. Three people were badly hurt and about 40 injured when the same ferry hit the same pier in 2010 because of a mechanical problem.