Seastreak Ferry Crash at Pier 11 in New York Harbor Involving New Jersey Commuters Is A Reminder of the 2003 Staten Island Ferry Accident

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In a tragic maritime accident, more that 50 people were injured when a ferry packed with hundreds of commuters from New Jersey crashed as it was docking at Pier 11 in Lower Manhattan at 8:45 a.m. on Wednesday, January 9, 2013. The Seastreak ferry launched from Conner’s Pier in Highlands, New Jersey with 343 people on board, including five crew members. The ferry appears to have been carrying mostly early morning commuters from New Jersey to work in the Wall Street area of downtown New York City. The accident occurred just below South Street Seaport, a popular tourist attraction in lower Manhattan. The crash of the ferry boat into the pier left a gaping wide gash on the starboard bow about 2 feet above the water line. Pier 11 is itself popular with tourists in the summertime, when Seastreak, a high speed ferry service, offers regular services to Martha’s Vineyard as well as several regional beaches. At all other times, the ferries are predominantly used by commuters.

The force of the crash was so strong that it sent passengers, many of whom were standing and preparing to disembark, flying into the air and crashing into one another, walls, windows and seats. The dock was turned into a triage area, where the dozens of injured were placed on gurneys and taken to area hospitals. The Seastreak ferry company provides high-speed catamaran services to points in Manhattan from central New Jersey, operating a fleet of five vessels. The ferry, just this past year, was re-fitted with new propellers to replace original propulsion water jets, according to an Aug. 28 report in nautical trade mag Marine Log. The new system, installed by a Louisiana ship builder, cut maximum speed from 38 knots to 32 knots, but boosted fuel efficiency and cut carbon emissions in half.. According to the United States Coast Guard, drug and alcohol tests were conducted on the captain and crew, and all had passed the breath tests. An 11 member team from the National Transportation Safety Board was sent to New York City to begin an investigation into the cause of the crash.

New York Harbor is the world’s third-busiest in terms of ferry traffic. The last serious accident occurred in 2003, when a Staten Island Ferry crashed into a pier after the assistant captain passed out during the journey. A complex and protracted ferry crash litigation resulted from that accident. Anthony Bisignano, Esq., was appointed as the Liaison Counsel on behalf of over 150 injured persons and families of the eleven deceased. Mr. Bisignano successfully defended a challenge by the City of New York to limit the amount of compensation payable to all victims based upon an antiquated legal loophole. Ultimately, the City was defeated at the District Court trial level and the Appellate level in the Second Circuit Court of the United States. With Mr. Bisignano overseeing the litigation, the City of New York paid over $90 million dollars in total compensation to the victims and families of the deceased.

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