New York ferry crash investigation begins, but results could be months away

Posted at 7:19 PM, Jan 09, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-09 19:21:50-05

LOWER MANHATTAN (PIX11) — For the next five to seven days, investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board will remain in New York from their headquarters in Washington to gather information to help them determine what caused the hazardous crash of a commuter ferry in lower Manhattan Wednesday morning.   However, a conclusion in the case is not expected for weeks, if not months.

What is very clear, though, is the six foot-long tear in the starboard hull of the Seastreak Wall Street ferry.  It is the apparent result of the 500-passenger vessel’s allison.  That’s a nautical term meaning the collision of a moving vessel with a stationary object.  In the Seastreak Wall Street’s case, it was the moving vessel.  Its docking pier, Pier 11, was the stationary object.

Seastreak gash

A six foot-long gash was torn into the starboard hull of the Seastreak Wall Street ferry.

Finding out how this happened will be a long, but thorough process, according to the NTSB.  “We plan to be looking into the maintenance records, the crew records, the training records – anything like that, we want to be looking at,” said Robert Sumwalt, a National Transportation Safety Board member, in a late afternoon news conference.

He also said that while the work of the 11 investigators will include interviews with the ferry’s captain, Jason Reimer, and the rest of the crew, beginning Thursday morning, he and his team were only in New York to gather evidence.  He said that conclusions would come later, based on the evidence gathered in New York over the next week or so.

“We are going out to collect the factual information,” Sumwalt said, “the perishable information… information that can go away with the passage of time.”

The first step in the process of establishing the cause of the crash were toxicology tests of the Seastreak Wall Street’s captain and crew.  On Thursday afternoon the CEO of Seastreak Corporation, James Barker, said that the crew had all passed tests for blood alcohol.  Results for drug tests will take longer to obtain.

Barker described Capt. Reimer as “one of the best in the business.”  He said that it was up to the NTSB to comment regarding a cause of the crash, but did note that he had the engines of his vessel, which was built in 2003, retrofitted last summer for environmental reasons.

Calling it “the greenest in the fleet,” Barker stood by his company’s ship, and by its crew and captain.  Capt. Jason Reimer was on board the bridge of the Seastreak Wall Street at the time of the collision.

The vessel, Barker confirmed, had been involved in incidents in the past, but nothing nearly this serious.