Dozens hurt as Staten Island Ferry crashes while docking.

Staten Island Congressman Michael McMahon issued a statement just a short time ago commending the quick NYPD. FDNY, Coast Guard, EMS, and DOT reaction to the crash of a SI Ferry this morning, but also expressing concern that the accident comes so quickly on the heels of a 2003 crash

“I commend the members of the NYPD, FDNY, Coast Guard, EMS and DOT for their quick response at the scene of today’s crash.  Their actions, as well as those of the Captain of the Andrew Barberi, limited the severity of injury and damage,” Congressman McMahon said, adding:

“I am extremely concerned, however, that a mechanical failure of this magnitude has occurred after the events Staten Island Ferry riders have experienced in the past few years.  I will be working with all the pertinent agencies on a full investigation to determine the root of the problem.  These type of accidents are unacceptable and the bottom line is that this can never happen again.”

The crash occurred at about 9:30 this morning as the ferry docked in Staten Island.

A Staten Island ferry with a history of accidents lost power as it approached its terminal Saturday and smashed into a pier with a jolt that tossed passengers to the deck and hurt as many as 37 people.

The accident happened at around 9:20 a.m. as the Andrew J. Barberi arrived at the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island, carrying 252 passengers and 18 crew.

Passenger Jason Watler, 30, of St. George, said he became alarmed as the ferry approached the shore faster than usual and ran toward the back of the boat.

“It was not slowing down,” he said. “He was going too fast.”

Then, he heard a “a real big boom.”

“I stumbled a little bit,” he said. “People were screaming. People were crying.”

The accident appeared to be the result of a mechanical failure, New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said.

The ferry’s throttle failed to engage as it prepared to dock, she said, meaning the crew was unable to use the engines to slow down. The cause of the malfunction is still unknown, she said.

Coast Guard officials said the ferry suffered serious damage to its ramps and gouges in the decks above the waterline. Ramps on the pier were also damaged.

The Fire Department said 17 passengers were taken by ambulance to hospitals, but that none had life-threatening injuries. One person complained of chest pains. Others were bandaged and comforted by firefighters at the scene. Two police officers who provide security on the ferry were among the injured, officials said, but no crew members were hurt.

The Andrew Barberi was also involved in a 2003 wreck that killed 11 people. That accident occurred when the pilot, suffering from extreme fatigue and on painkillers, passed out at the wheel and the boat hit the terminal in St. George at full speed. The ferry returned to service after a multimillion-dollar rehabilitation.

The pilot pleaded guilty to negligent manslaughter and lying to investigators. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison. The city ferry director was sentenced to a year in prison after pleading guilty to negligent manslaughter and admitting he failed to implement or enforce a rule requiring two pilots during docking.

On July 1, 2009, a ferry boat lost power and slammed into a pier at the St. George terminal, causing more than a dozen minor injuries among passengers. That accident was blamed on the failure of a transformer, which regulates power to the main propulsion engine.

The ferry runs across New York harbor between Manhattan and Staten Island. Ferries landing at the terminal approach fairly quickly, then slow by putting the engines in reverse. The boat coasts into a U-shaped slip and workers extend large ramps that allow passengers to exit. Most passengers assemble at the front as the ferry arrives.

In Saturday’s accident, Sadik-Khan said, the crew discovered the mechanical problem in time to alert passengers to brace for a hard landing, although it is unclear how many heard or understood the warning.

Dwayne Forrest, 47, of Knoxville, Tenn., was sitting in the front with of the ferry with his wife, Sheila. He said he heard a warning, buzzers sounded and then someone said “Red! Red! Red!” and about 15 seconds later, the boat hit.

“It was a hard jolt. … Luckily we were sitting down,” he said.

The Forrests were in New York City on vacation and were told they could get a better look at the Statue of Liberty if they rode the ferry.

Alex Gonzalez, 36, of the Bronx, said the ferry appeared to speed up, rather than slow, as it approached the dock. He said the impact threw a woman and child standing near him about 10 feet.

“It was the scariest thing of my life,” he said.

Service on the ferry line was suspended after the accident, then restored by late morning.

The ferry itself was dislodged from the dock at the terminal about five hours after the crash, with the help of a tugboat, and taken to another nearby pier area.

The crash will be investigated, Gov. David Paterson said at the scene. He said it was important for him to be on site after the events of the past week had raised tensions in New York City.

“That’s the byproduct of harmful acts, and it causes people to be worried about things like transportation,” Paterson said. (Associated Press)