Ferry Crash Kills 10, Pilot Attempts Suicide

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A Staten Island ferry moving at a rapid clip in gusting winds crashed into a pier at the St. George ferry terminal yesterday afternoon, the New York Times reports, killing 10 people and injuring dozens of others as the concrete and wood pier sliced through its side, mowing down tourists and commuters.

The exact cause of the 3:20 p.m. accident was not clear last night. But law enforcement officials said the ferry’s pilot fled the scene to his home in the Westerleigh neighborhood of Staten Island, barricaded himself in a bathroom, slit his wrists and shot himself twice in the chest with a powerful pellet gun.

The pilot, identified by city officials as Assistant Capt. Richard J. Smith, survived and was in critical condition at a local hospital, where detectives were waiting to interview him. Mr. Smith was in charge of the boat when it neared the Staten Island terminal at a high speed, and his captain noticed that the ferry was off course, according to one police official. The captain tried to get control of the boat, the official said, but it slammed into a concrete maintenance pier about 400 feet from the nearest ferry slip.

Investigators were trying to determine last night whether Mr. Smith had been drinking or taking drugs, had fallen asleep or was perhaps incapacitated as a result of a medical condition, a law enforcement official said.

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/16/nyregion/16FERR.html?hp

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