FERRY CAPTAIN SEASICKOct 31, 2003 | New York Post
The tight-lipped captain of the Staten Island Ferry that crashed into a pier and killed 10 passengers two weeks ago produced a doctor's note yesterday, claiming that he suffers from "acute stress disorder" and that an interview would "exacerbate and prolong" his condition.
Captain Michael Gansas' medical excuse comes as Robert Rush, a mate aboard the ill-fated ferry Andrew J. Barberi, met yesterday with city lawyers and told them what he told the feds: Gansas was not in the pilothouse as required by city rules when the boat crashed.
Lawyers for Gansas, who has refused to speak with National Transportation Safety Board probers, said in court papers that he should not be forced to respond to a subpoena.
"Subjecting Mr. Gansas to additional stress, such as an interview where he would be required to describe in detail his recollection of the traumatic event, can both exacerbate and prolong suffering from the disorder," the papers said.
Investigators are trying to determine whether Gansas was in the pilothouse when the ferry crashed Oct. 15 near Staten Island's St. George Terminal, killing 10 people and injuring 72.
Gansas' lawyers issued the sworn statement a week after federal Judge Frederic Block ordered him to appear in court Nov. 5.
"Mr. Gansas is not physiologically ready to undergo the type of stress that would result from being subjected to the type of interview the NTSB has requested," the papers said.
Meanwhile, Rush was interviewed by city lawyers to discuss what he knows about the crash. Department of Transportation spokesman Tom Cocola said the agency is "reconsidering his suspension."
Assistant Captain Richard Smith, who apparently lost consciousness at the controls before the accident, was moved back yesterday to St. Vincent's Hospital after successfully undergoing angioplasty surgery at Staten Island University Hospital.
Gansas said he tried to take the controls from Smith, but witnesses have told probers he was not in the pilothouse at the time. Smith, who has been unable to speak with investigators, has been hospitalized following a suicide attempt.
The Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's Office has said Gansas could be prosecuted under a federal law that says any seaman "whose misconduct, negligence or inattention" leads to death can be charged with manslaughter.
That probe comes as Staten Island District Attorney William Murphy plans to convene a grand jury Monday to see if any criminality was involved in the disaster, sources said.