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US Authorities Investigate NY Ferry Accident - 2003-10-16

U.S. authorities have launched an investigation into Wednesday's crash on a New York ferry that left at least 10 people dead and injured many more.

The National Transportation Safety Board, the NTSB, is leading the investigation into the deadly crash of New York's Staten Island ferry.

Authorities are looking into the possibility of human error. They are focusing on the role of the ferry pilot, Richard Smith, who lost control of the vessel. After the crash, Mr. Smith quickly fled the scene and attempted suicide at his home by slitting his wrists and shooting himself with a pellet gun.

Officials say the inquiry could take as long as a year.

The head of the NTSB, Ellen Engleman, says the federal panel is also investigating several other possible factors, such as training, maintenance of the ferry and the weather on a day of high winds in New York City.

"Our investigation will be thorough," she said. "Our investigation will be detailed. It will be based on fact, science and data. It will not be distracted by supposition, desire or guess work. And so we will work very hard and deliberately to find out what happened and why in order to ensure that it does not occur in the future."

Witnesses describe chaos on the ferry as it rammed into the pier, slicing a lower deck. The side of the boat was ripped apart and was covered with shredded wood from the dock, twisted metal, debris and shattered glass.

Some of the victims were killed in the crash. Others were severely injured and lost limbs. Some people plunged into the water.

The ferry had just completed the 25-minute trip across New York harbor from lower Manhattan to Staten Island. Officials estimate that it was carrying about 1,500 people. Ferry service has since resumed.