A commuter ferry crashed as it was docking in lower Manhattan on Wednesday morning, injuring 57 passengers, two critically. The ferry was taking hundreds of commuters from the New Jersey shore into New York City's Wall Street area.
“It was like we ran into a concrete wall,” said Bill McKenzie, a 62-year-old bond broker commuting from his home in Highlands, N.J. “You’re never prepared for something like that. Bodies were just flying.”
The crash occurred at about 8:45 a.m. as the boat, operated by Seastreak Ferry, pulled into Pier 11 near Wall Street in lower Manhattan. The cause of the accident was not immediately clear, but a massive gash could be seen along the front right side of the boat.
Dozens of police and fire officials descended on the scene, as did workers from the American Red Cross, who were helping dazed passengers even as they were being questioned by investigators. Several passengers were seen being carried from the scene on flat boards, their heads and necks secured.
Officials said there were about 300 people on the boat, including five crew members. At least two passengers were critically injured with severe head trauma and nine others had serious injuries, according to New York City Fire Commissioner Joe Bruno.
Bruno said the boat's captain and other crew members were being interviewed by local authorities on the scene, and fire officials were preparing to turn over the scene to investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board. Officials said the pier would be closed until further notice.
Commuter Ashley Furman said the ferry had pulled into the pier as usual and that she and other passengers had stood up to prepare to disembark.
“I was talking to someone and the next thing I knew, I was on the ground,” Furman said, visibly shaken. “A woman was shaking me and asking me if I was OK, and I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t speak."
Furman said she was thrown about six feet through the air. "I felt like I was in a movie," she said.
Another passenger, who declined to give his name as he was led by emergency workers to an ambulance, said there was “utter chaos” on the boat. He told reporters he had seen people who appeared to have been knocked unconscious by the force of the impact.
McKenzie, who has been riding the ferry for years, was taking it for only the second time since Superstorm Sandy hit in late October. Power was recently restored to his workplace at 55 Water St., which was heavily damaged in the storm, and he and his co-workers had returned to their offices only this week.
Still dazed, McKenzie said he was standing on the ferry’s second level talking to a friend when the boat jolted. “Whatever we hit, it just stopped us,” McKenzie said. He slammed into the back of the man in front of him, giving him a bloody nose and lip.
But others nearby were more severely injured. A man a few feet away had crashed through a glass window, he said. And dozens of people in the stairwells, where McKenzie believed the worst injuries were sustained, flew through the air. He described a scene of “chaos” as crew members ran to attend to those who were injured.
“I am very thankful for my friend, who wasn’t moving very fast today,” McKenzie said, telling reporters that normally he would have been on the stairwell.