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Ferry Death Toll: 11

Dec 17, 2003 | Newsday

Debra Castro, the most seriously injured survivor of the Staten Island Ferry accident, died yesterday, raising the tragedy's death toll to 11.

Castro, 39, died at 7:48 a.m. at Staten Island University Hospital from multi-system organ failure, according to hospital officials.

After the ferry slammed into a concrete pier on Oct. 15, Castro lost her left leg, and half of her right leg was amputated to the knee. She also suffered a broken arm, and part of her left ear was shorn off and reattached.

Her husband, Bill Castro, had taken leave from his job as a city bus driver and kept vigil by her hospital bed, hoping his wife would recover. Earlier this month he filed a suit against the city for $220 million.

In a statement released yesterday by his attorney, Castro said, "Debra was a woman who loved life and fought a very hard battle to regain it. I can only take comfort with the knowledge that her suffering has now been eased and her dignity returned."

Dr. Jeffrey Nicastro, lead trauma surgeon for Castro, said, "Her strength and will to live were phenomenal, but in the end, her injuries proved insurmountable."

Debra Castro was returning home from a doctor's appointment in Manhattan when the Andrew J. Barberi crashed into the pier.

Bill Castro said he was working when he saw fire engines and police cars racing to the pier and realized an accident had occurred on the Staten Island Ferry. He didn't find out that his wife was on the doomed vessel until later that evening, when he got home from his shift and heard a message from her saying she was taking the 3 p.m. ferry home.

When he went to the pier, he said, he was told his wife was not on the list of victims, so he filled out a missing persons report and left. Then, at 1 a.m. on Oct. 16, Castro said, two detectives came to his apartment with pictures of his wife's jewelry and an ivory, heart-shaped stone that she carried in her pocket for good luck. The detectives said there was an unidentified woman at the hospital. Castro said he later learned from a friend that his wife was conscious when they found her on the boat, "awake and screaming" in pain.

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