U.S. Attorney's Office Subpoenas Ferry CaptainOct 29, 2003 | Atlanticville Independent
The U.S. Attorneyâ€™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 Boardâ€™s investigation, according Marjorie M. Murtagh, director of the NTSBâ€™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. Attorneyâ€™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 mainteÂnance pier at the St. George Ferry Terminal, Staten Island, N.Y., at high speed.
The U.S. Attorneyâ€™s Office filed the order to show cause after Gansas failed to appear in court following an earlier subpoena.
"The progress of the NTSB invesÂtigation of this fatal accident is significantly impeded without Capt. Gansasâ€™ essential testimony. And each day that goes by may reÂsult 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.
Gansasâ€™ attorneys had agreed that he would appear for an inÂterview in court on Oct. 21, alÂthough the NTSB tried to interview him earlier. But on Oct. 20, Gansasâ€™ attorneys notified the NTSB that he would not appear voluntarily.
The NTSB issued a subpoena for Gansas to appear in court on Oct. 22.
Gansasâ€™ 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 adÂvised to avoid further stress in the immediate future," said his attorÂneys Catherine M. Foti and Stephen J. Sheinbaum in a joint statement.
Gansas is being "unfairly viliÂfied by those who should know betÂter," 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 continuÂing with the investigation and are reviewing documents and interÂviews obtained at the accident scene, said NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway.
The NTSB turned the matter over to the U.S. Attorneyâ€™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 shipâ€™s steering and propulsion sysÂtems, examined the navigation equipment, and watched the operÂation of the transfer system, which passes control from the engine room to the wheelhouse and from wheelhouse to wheelhouse.
"The tests verified that the vesÂselâ€™s equipment and systems perÂformed as designed," according to the NTSB. "Witness statements gathered to date indicate that the vessel struck the pier at full speed."