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More Than 30 Ferry Mishaps Blamed on Error

Nov 1, 2003 | AP

More than 30 accidents on Staten Island ferries since 1978 have been attributed to negligent captains or other ferry workers, according to a review of Coast Guard safety records.

Passengers or crew members were hurt in at least 50 accidents, the review found, but some of those were due not to crashes but to falls and other mishaps.

The statistics were gathered by the New York Times from a survey of 1,500 Coast Guard records from the last 25 years and were reported in the newspaper's Saturday editions.

Ferry operations have been under intense scrutiny since the crash last month of the Andrew J. Barberi, in which 10 passengers died. Investigations into the cause of the crash have so far focused on the possible negligence of ferry personnel.

A number of past accidents might have been far worse if not for lucky circumstances, the review found.

When 16 passengers were hurt in a hard landing accident in April 1995, for example, a Coast Guard report said "the number of injuries, and possibly fatalities, could have been much greater" if the incident had happened at rush hour.

Several accident reports cite the crowding of ferry passengers toward the front of boats before landing as a factor contributing to injuries. Ferry workers often neglect to make passengers stay seated until boats land, as ferry safety procedures dictate, Coast Guard records showed.

The city Transportation Department on Friday announced it would implement a half-dozen new safety procedures in the wake of last month's crash.

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