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Mechanical failure suspected in ferry crash

The Andrew J. Barberi ferry crashed Saturday, injuring about three dozen of the 252 passengers on board. The Andrew J. Barberi ferry crashed Saturday, injuring about three dozen of the 252 passengers on board. (Robert Mecea/ Associated Press)
Associated Press / May 11, 2010

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NEW YORK — The investigation into a Staten Island ferry that slammed into a pier over the weekend has turned up no evidence of a crime, according to a National Transportation Safety Board official, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg said yesterday that indications pointed to mechanical failure.

“At this point in the investigation, we have no reason to believe this was a criminal or intentional act,’’ NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said.

The ferry’s assistant captain, Maqbool Ahmed, was piloting the Andrew J. Barberi, with the captain nearby in the bridge, when it crashed at Staten Island’s St. George Ferry Terminal on Saturday, injuring about three dozen people, Seth Solomonow, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Transportation, said yesterday.

NTSB investigators were interviewing Ahmed and some of the approximately 18 crew members. They also were expected to talk to some of the 252 passengers who were aboard the vessel.

Bloomberg said Ahmed and the captain were right next to each other at the time of the crash, and that similar to co-pilots on airplanes, they took turns being at the helm on different segments of the ferry ride to make sure each gained experience in the position.

“I think everybody’s so far convinced that this was a mechanical problem,’’ he said.

Alcohol and drug tests were conducted on the crew members in Saturday’s accident, Sumwalt said. The alcohol tests, which were conducted by the Coast Guard, came back negative for all, and the drug tests were being evaluated, he said. Investigators have not ruled anything out yet, Sumwalt said.