60 injured in New York ferry accident
Nearly 60 people were injured, two of them critically, when a rush-hour ferry packed with commuters smashed into a New York City pier on Wednesday, sending passengers flying, officials said.
The accident took place shortly before 9:00 am (1400 GMT) on Pier 11 in the East River in lower Manhattan, not far from Wall Street. The ferry was arriving from New Jersey.
"The latest report we have is that 58 people were injured. Two of those were critical," coast guard spokesman Charles Rowe said, adding that an investigation would be launched.
There were 326 passengers and five crew on board, Rowe said.
Both of the passengers in critical condition suffered head injuries, authorities said.
Witnesses said the ferry, the Seastreak Wall Street, was going too quickly when it approached the pier.
Passenger Sean Boyle told the local NBC affiliate that the ferry arrived "at full speed" and crashed "right into the pier."
"They didn't make any announcement," Boyle added.
Another passenger, Bett Cebulas, said: "It was entirely normal... But it didn't stop this time."
Television images showed a large gash in the hull of the vessel.
Many commuters were standing when the accident occurred, ready to disembark, and many had mobile telephones in their hands, leaving them no way to absorb the shock of the collision.
"I was standing on the boat... and the next thing I know, I was six feet in the air," said Ashley Furman. Some passengers panicked as they tried to disembark.
Police and firefighters evacuated the injured from the scene on stretchers. Many were taken to area hospitals. Other passengers were covered in blankets as they awaited assistance on the pier.
The cause of the accident was not immediately clear. Weather conditions were good at the time of the accident, with hardly any wind and good visibility.
"Basically, it was a hard landing," city transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan told a brief news conference, explaining that the ferry was traveling at a speed of 10 to 12 knots when it missed its docking target.
It was an accident-prone day for New York as later in the afternoon a 200-foot crane came crashing down on a building under construction near the East River waterfront in Queens, injuring seven people, three seriously.
Dozens of ferries bring thousands of commuters from New Jersey or Brooklyn to Manhattan every day, but accidents are rare.
In the most serious one, in October 2003, 11 people were killed and 70 others injured when a Staten Island ferry slammed into a pier at full speed.
The National Transportation Safety Board will lead the probe and has assigned 12 investigators to the case, it said in a statement. The first investigators were due at the scene later Wednesday.
Sobriety tests were given to crew members, and preliminary results were negative, the coast guard spokesman said.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg briefly visited the scene following the accident.
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