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NTSB Report Blames Captain, Company

May 30, 2014 | Posted In Personal Injury/Negligence

A recent finding from the National Transportation Safety Board could change the course of an ongoing personal injury case involving the SeaStreak Wall Street commuter ferry that crashed last year. Injured passengers have leveled lawsuits against the company and the manufacturer, personal injury lawyers in New Jersey say, but now, NTSB has ruled that an error made by the ship’s captain played a factor in the causes of the crash. 

On January 9, 2013, the SeaStreak was traveling with about 330 passengers from Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey, when it crashed into Pier 11 at the end of Wall Street. Several passengers were injured, flung down staircases and into the ship’s walls when the high-speed ship abruptly collided with the pier. The 46 passengers who filed timely personal injury claims are seeking more than $75 million in damages to cover medical expenses and loss of consortium. Most of these claims have been filed against SeaStreak LLC, the ferry owner. 

But according to the NTSB report, SeaStreak LLC may not be entirely at fault, especially following their investigation into the events leading up to the crash. In a synopsis of the report, NTSB covered what happened to the ship, and the factors that played a role in the collision, as well as a plan to prevent future crashes from occurring. The board ruled that the “probable cause” of the collision was a loss of control on the part of the captain, who they found was confused about the way the ferry had been operating as the ship approached the pier. He did not know that the propellers were in a position designed to increase the forward speed of the boat, rather than slow it down for docking. 

Although the captain’s intent was to slow the boat down, and transfer propulsion control from the center station to the starboard side—a routine procedure for SeaStreak captains—he “did not allow enough time to react to loss of vessel control while approaching the pier,” NTSB reported. However, the accident was not entirely his fault. NTSB’s synopsis also found that the risk of accident had been increased by SeaStreak’s lack of safety management systems to find risks and eliminate them. 

An adequate safety management system would incorporate training programs for employees to impart safe practices for operating their ships, clearly defined roles for crew members to provide the captain with appropriate backup in an emergency, and up-to-date record keeping. In addition, NTSB noted that the passengers on board would have sustained far fewer injuries if the ship had posted warnings and enforced rules regarding when passengers can be in the stairwells, and when it is unsafe for them to be there, during docking and undocking. The ship should have had a warning system to alert passengers of the impending impact as well.

Altogether, NTSB’s report indicates that both the captain and the ship’s company are at fault for the crash, and this evidence will direct injured parties to the best course of action for their lawsuits. If you have been injured in a boating accident or other vehicle collision due to someone else’s negligence, contact the personal injury attorneys at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, a New Jersey law firm, for a consultation today. 

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