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U.S. Attorney's Office Subpoenas Ferry Captain

Oct 29, 2003 | Atlanticville Independent

The U.S. Attorney’s Office wants the captain of the ill-fated Staten Island Ferry, Andrew J. Barberi, to appear in federal court Nov. 5 to explain why he failed to show up for an earlier court date.

Both Capt. Michael J. Gansas and the pilot, Assistant. Capt. Richard Smith, are "central" to the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation, according Marjorie M. Murtagh, director of the NTSB’s Office of Marine Safety.

"Capt. Gansas is the only person who can provide information about the position of the controls of the vessel at the time of the impact, and the condition of Asst. Capt. Smith immediately following the impact," according to an order to show cause filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of New York Oct. 24.

Ten people died and 70 were injured in the Oct. 15 crash when the ferry slammed into a mainte­nance pier at the St. George Ferry Terminal, Staten Island, N.Y., at high speed.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office filed the order to show cause after Gansas failed to appear in court following an earlier subpoena.

"The progress of the NTSB inves­tigation of this fatal accident is significantly impeded without Capt. Gansas’ essential testimony. And each day that goes by may re­sult in the irreversible corrosion of that testimony," the order states.

Two of those killed, John P. Healy, 44, and Frank R. Sullivan, 46, were Middletown residents.

Gansas’ attorneys had agreed that he would appear for an in­terview in court on Oct. 21, al­though the NTSB tried to interview him earlier. But on Oct. 20, Gansas’ attorneys notified the NTSB that he would not appear voluntarily.

The NTSB issued a subpoena for Gansas to appear in court on Oct. 22.

Gansas’ lawyers informed the NTSB that Gansas was suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder and would not be able to appear before the investigators.

"Mr. Gansas is currently under the care of a physician as a result of the trauma and has been ad­vised to avoid further stress in the immediate future," said his attor­neys Catherine M. Foti and Stephen J. Sheinbaum in a joint statement.

Gansas is being "unfairly vili­fied by those who should know bet­ter," the statement says.

"Inflammatory remarks and name calling simply will not help to resolve the issues raised by this matter," the attorneys said. "Mr. Gansas plans on cooperating fully with the investigation when he is legally and medically free to do so."

NTSB investigators are continu­ing with the investigation and are reviewing documents and inter­views obtained at the accident scene, said NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway.

The NTSB turned the matter over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office after efforts to interview Gansas failed, he said.

"It will be in their hands to take further steps," he said.

NTSB investigators tested the ship’s steering and propulsion sys­tems, examined the navigation equipment, and watched the oper­ation of the transfer system, which passes control from the engine room to the wheelhouse and from wheelhouse to wheelhouse.

"The tests verified that the ves­sel’s equipment and systems per­formed as designed," according to the NTSB. "Witness statements gathered to date indicate that the vessel struck the pier at full speed."

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