The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

January 10, 2013

Investigators looking into high-speed ferry crash

— NEW YORK (AP) — A high-speed commuter ferry that crashed into a lower Manhattan dock, injuring dozens of people, had recently undergone a major overhaul that gave it new engines and a new propulsion system, and officials are looking into whether they played any role in the morning rush hour accident.

The National Transportation Safety Board also will begin interviewing crew members of the catamaran Seastreak Wall Street on Thursday, a process NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt said would take all day.

The ferry had slowed following a routine trip across New York Bay and past the Statue of Liberty Wednesday morning when the impact took place, hurling scores of people to the deck or into the walls. Around 70 were hurt, 11 seriously.

The naval architecture firm that designed the reconfiguration, Incat Crowther, said in an August news release that the ferry's water-jet propulsion system had been replaced with a new system of propellers and rudders to save fuel costs and cut carbon dioxide pollution in half. James Barker, the chairman of the ferry's owner, Seastreak LLC, said the overhaul made it "the greenest ferry in America."

The hull was reworked, and the boat was made 15 metric tons lighter. At top speed, the ferry, built in 2003, travels at around 35 knots, or 40 mph.

Seastreak spokesman Bob Dorn, asked whether the work had hurt the ferry's maneuverability or caused pilots any problems, said it would be up to the National Transportation Safety Board to determine if the new equipment played any role.

Sumwalt said the NTSB was aware of the modification and would "certainly be looking at that, as well as everything else."

"Right now we want to collect all the information we can so that we can begin our analysis," Sumwalt added during an interview on Fox 5 News on Thursday morning.

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