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N.Y. Set to Fire Staten Island Ferry Captain

Oct 23, 2003 | AP

The city Wednesday moved to fire the Staten Island Ferry captain involved in last week's fatal crash after he refused for a second day to meet with federal investigators.

"We are drawing up charges as we speak based on his refusal to cooperate," said Iris Weinshall, city transportation commissioner.

Michael Gansas, who supervised the pilot operating the ferry when the crash occurred, had refused to meet with National Transportation Safety Board investigators Tuesday, prompting federal officials to issue a subpoena. On Wednesday, Gansas's attorney, Stephen Sheinbaum, said his client remained too traumatized to speak with investigators and was under medical care.

Gansas failed to appear at the Staten Island hotel where he was supposed to meet with NTSB officials.

"Mister Gansas remains with his family as they try to deal with the tragic consequences of last week's events," Sheinbaum said. "Mister Gansas is being unfairly vilified by those who should know better."

Sheinbaum added that Gansas plans to cooperate when he is "legally and medically free to do so."

Hours before the scheduled meeting, Weinshall said she notified Gansas that he was suspended effective immediately over his refusal to cooperate.

The captain's whereabouts at the time of the Oct. 15 crash are considered a vital element of the probe because he could have provided backup if, as investigators suspect, the pilot, Richard Smith, blacked out at the throttle before the ferry plowed into a pier, killing 10 people and injuring dozens.

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