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Seastreak Wall Street Ferry Saw Other Problems Before Crash

Seastreak Wall Street Retrofitting

The Seastreak Wall Street ferry, which crashed Wednesday, underwent a retrofit operation last year. (Credit: Incat Crowther/CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Seastreak Wall Street ferry that crashed in Lower Manhattan Wednesday has had a few minor incidents in recent years.

Investigators believed Wednesday evening that mechanical failure caused the crash involving the Seastreak Wall Street catamaran. Crewmembers told NYPD investigators the ferry controls locked or froze into place as the ferry was headed into dock.

Meanwhile, records from the U.S. Coast Guard showed one incident in 2009, and another in 2010, when the ferry was damaged during a docking operation. But in those instances, the ferry suffered minor damages – nothing like the huge gash sustained in the starboard hull in the Wednesday morning incident.

In the 2009 incident, the vessel hit a structure at the East 35th Street Pier, tearing a 3-foot hole in the hull, CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported.

In 2010, it hit a structure at Sandy Hook Bay Marina, resulting in a small hole in the hull.

But as CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reports, last summer, the ferry was taken out of service for a major retrofit. Investigators on Wednesday evening were trying to determine whether that played a role in the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board, the U.S. Coast Guard and NYPD investigators spent all afternoon aboard the Seastreak Wall Street, collecting evidence and interviewing the five-member crew. At least 74 people were injured in the crash, and two were initially reported in critical condition.

The company president identified the captain as Jason Reimer. He and all the other crewmembers passed breathalyzer tests Wednesday.

“He’s very concerned just as we are,” Seastreak company president Jim Barker said. “This is a very serious accident and had very serious consequences, our concerns go out to those who got hurt and their families who are right now very concerned about those people.”

Investigators believe the boat hit Slip D at Pier 11. There was a pronounced mark on the end of the slip.

Afterward, the ferry continued on and hit Slip B, leaving a huge gash in the half-inch-thick aluminum hull.

The ferry Seastreak Wall Street was built in 2003, and was extensively remodeled and retrofitted just last summer to make it more efficient, as well as to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

The firm Incat Crowther, which supervised the retrofit, released pictures of the changes Wednesday. The four original engines were replaced with two new ones, and the original water-jet propulsion units were replaced with two controllable pitch propellers.

A frequent rider told CBS 2 News the changes definitely impacted the way the boat navigated and docked.

“The ride, once it’s up and running, has a lot smoother, so we’ve all appreciated that,” he said. “However, the docking, there’s been a couple of times, the tide and current were running the wrong way, he struggles to get it into the dock correctly, so back in, back out, back in, back out. I would say it was better under the old mechanism — maybe four or five times but it was something we never had under the old boat. Riders noticed it, but I wouldn’t say they complained about it.”

“The only thing I noticed that they took more care coming into the docks, but other than that, I don’t know,” added ferry rider Lenny Oddo.

Barker said the retrofit required retraining the crew.

“You had to get used to the boat with what happened,” he said.

“We plan to be looking into the maintenance records, the crew records, the training records – anything like that, we want to be looking at,” said NTSB Boardmember Robert L. Sumwalt.

Officials said it will take about a week to fix the vessel. The repairs will involve cutting out the damaged section and patching it up with a new piece of aluminum.

On Wednesday night, the ferry was towed and put into dry dock for investigation and repair.

Meanwhile, 11 NTSB investigators have come up from Washington, D.C., and will interview the five ferry crewmembers on Thursday morning.

Do you think the owners of the ferry should face consequences? Leave your comments below…