THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

No alarms sounded before ferry struck Staten Island pier

A Staten Island ferry docked in Manhattan yesterday. The ferry that malfunctioned and crashed into a pier Saturday, injuring up to 37 people, has been idled. A Staten Island ferry docked in Manhattan yesterday. The ferry that malfunctioned and crashed into a pier Saturday, injuring up to 37 people, has been idled. (Seth Wenig/ Associated Press)
Associated Press / May 10, 2010

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NEW YORK — Engine conditions appeared normal and no engine alarms sounded before a Staten Island ferry malfunctioned while approaching its terminal and slammed into a pier, injuring dozens of people, federal investigators said yesterday.

A National Transportation Safety Board team said it determined that the ferry’s two forward engines facing the Staten Island dock stopped upon impact, but the two rear engines were still operating.

The team has interviewed the chief engineer and some crew members of the Andrew J. Barberi ferry, which was carrying 252 passengers and about 18 crew members when it crashed at St. George Ferry Terminal on Saturday. It also has met with the management of the Staten Island Ferry.

Alcohol and drug tests were conducted on the crew members aboard the vessel at the time of the accident, NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said at news conference on Staten Island yesterday. The alcohol tests, which were conducted by the US Coast Guard, came back negative for all, and the drug tests were being evaluated, he said.

“At this point in the investigation, we’re not ruling anything out,’’ said Sumwalt, part of a seven-member NTSB team. “Everything is on the table.’’

The NTSB team will spend as much as a week collecting information and evidence surrounding the accident, which injured up to 37 people.

Based on an initial interview yesterday with the chief engineer who was in the ferry’s engine control room, “there were no engine alarms prior to the accident,’’ Sumwalt said.

“All conditions concerning the engines were normal prior to the accident,’’ said Sumwalt, adding that there were also no previous problems with the propulsion system or electrical systems.

After the NTSB team completes its work at the scene, it will return to Washington, D.C., where it will conduct a deeper analysis of the collected information to try to determine the cause of the accident. That could take from a year to a year and a half, Sumwalt said. The NTSB could issue urgent safety recommendations before that, he said.

Janette Sadik-Khan, city Department Of Transportation commissioner, has said the accident appeared to be the result of a mechanical failure.