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Oct 30, 2003 | New York Post

The Brooklyn U.S. attorney yesterday launched a criminal probe of crew members aboard the Staten Island ferryboat that crashed Oct. 15.

U.S. Attorney Roslyn Mauskopf said her office will investigate whether the actions of Capt. Michael Gansas or any of the other 15 crew members when the Andrew J. Barberi slammed into a dock killing 10 people and injuring 72 constituted criminality

"We will apply the full resources of the United States government to follow the facts and determine if there is criminal liability, and if so, we will hold those accountable for their conduct," she said.

Gansas, who has refused to speak to National Transportation Safety Board probers, could be charged with manslaughter if he "knowingly and willfully" caused the death of the passengers and could face up to 10 years in prison, a law enforcement source said.

Investigators are trying to determine whether Gansas was in the pilothouse, as required by city Department of Transportation regulations.

NYPD investigators have told The Post that Gansas admitted to them after the disaster that he was at the other end of the boat and was unable to take over the controls in time to avert the crash.

Gansas' lawyer did not return calls for comment.

The boat's assistant captain, Richard Smith, who was operating the boat, said he blacked out. After the tragedy, he tried to kill himself and is in critical condition at a local hospital.

At the ceremony on the St. George promenade just outside the ferry terminal, relatives of the dead threw white roses into the bay and said they hoped for answers.

"All of us need some closure," said Tara Canini-Maresca, 26, wearing a shirt that read "In Loving Memory of My Dad Pio Canini Aboard the Staten Island Ferry on October 15, 2003."

"We are not going to be at peace until we find out what happened."

More than 250 people attended the 6 p.m. ceremony, including Mayor Bloomberg.

"We're going to get answers to why this happened, no matter how long it takes, " he said.

Jose Paguay, who lost his brother, Guillermo Paguay-Sanay, said he felt better after attending the service.

"My brother deserved this ceremony," he said.

Others felt nothing could dull the pain.

"I didn't really connect with it," said Denise Marshall, who lost her 25-year-old son, Darius.

"All I could think about was my loss."

Marshall thinks the criminal investigation is necessary.

"I feel that is appropriate because my child didn't have to die," the Syracuse woman said. "That was a crime."

The announcement of the federal investigation follows plans by Staten Island District Attorney William Murphy to convene a grand jury to determine if criminal charges are warranted.

Rep. Vito Fossella (R-S.I.) will hold a congressional hearing into the accident next Tuesday at the College of Staten Island and said he expects Gansas and the other crew members to testify.

Fossella said he will ask the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation to slap Gansas and others with subpoenas to compel them to appear.

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