There have been many ferry accidents over the past decade or so; the most notable and tragic being the one in 2003 that cost the lives of 11 people and injured over 100 others. After that disaster, many new regulations were put in place and the entire system was seemingly overhauled to improve passenger safety. Yet at least one captain within the industry has warned that it was not enough, and that New York ferries are another catastrophe waiting to happen.
2003 Staten Island Ferry Crash
The catastrophic disaster that really brought ferry safety to light occurred on October 15, 2003. Rather than docking properly, the Staten Island Ferry slammed into a pier, tearing open the side of the ferry and critically injuring passengers: 11 people died and over 100 were injured. The ferry was never slowed down at all, and it was found that the pilot lost consciousness due to the use of painkillers. This collision resulted in criminal charges against the pilot and others involved, as well as numerous firings and the hiring of new ferry company workers.
2010 Staten Island Ferry Crash
The Staten Island Ferry again got into a collision in 2010. In that accident, however, the crew did everything possible to reduce the seriousness of the crash, and it was the result of a technical failure. Fortunately, the efforts of the crew prevented any fatalities from occurring, though dozens of people were still injured and required medical care. It was merely a coincidence that the same exact ferry was involved in both crashes, as it had been maintained and worked on numerous times since the 2003 crash and different causes were to blame.
2017 MV Zelinsky Crash
In November 2017, the MV Zelinsky, a ferry owned by a private company and used as a spare vessel by the NYC Ferry service, struck a sandbar under the water and became stuck. This happened just after leaving the pier and fortunately none of the passengers were injured. The collision did tear a hole in the hull of the ferry, however, which caused it to take on water. The results could have been much worse if passengers had not been quickly removed from the vessel.
2018 New York Water Taxi Crash
Just last month in May 2018, a New York Water Taxi ferry struck a piece of wooden debris in the water, an impact that injured more than a dozen people and left some hospitalized. Most of the injuries were from falls due to the sudden impact. This illustrates how even a fairly minor collision can still result in injuries and expensive medical bills for the people involved.
What Regulations and Legislation Were Added?
Following the disastrous crash of 2003, numerous regulations were put in place to ensure ferry workers were better trained and ferries were properly maintained to keep passengers safe. New ferries have been purchased over the years with promises of better performance and smoother rides for everyone. And yet, at least one expert in the industry worries that these efforts are not enough.
An anonymous Staten Island Ferry captain has warned that the boats being used are not well designed and that they are another disaster just waiting to happen. He said that other captains are also concerned, primarily about the four “drives” that are used to propel and slow down the ferries. He warned that they are prone to failure, which makes it far more difficult to slow down the vessels, and should one of these failures occur while docking, the results could be catastrophic.
Liability after a Ferry Crash
When a ferry accident does occur, figuring out liability and getting compensation for victims can be quite complicated. That is because there are many different ferries running around New York and they have different owners. Many of the major transport ferries are run by public entities, such as the New York City Department of Transportation. When one of these public ferries is involved, then a lawsuit is possible, but the time to file a Notice of Claim is extremely short, and every day counts.
Other ferries are owned by private companies, typically those offering scenic rides to different locations. When these ferries are involved in a crash, a civil suit can be brought against the company that owns the ferry, and injured parties have more time to file such a claim—but sooner is much better than later.
Proving that negligence contributed to a collision is no small task, which is why a top New York ferry accident lawyer should always be involved right from the start. If you have questions about a similar accident to the ones described above, please contact Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, at (212) 986-7353 for a free consultation.