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Ferry Passenger Describes Crash into NYC Pier

1-9-13

A commuter ferry originating from Highlands crashed into a New York City pier this morning injuring dozens of passengers. One of those passengers was long-time ferry rider Brett Cebulash. He relayed his experience on the vessel to NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider.

Cebulash said the ferry ride was typical until the impact and that there wasn’t any warning before the Seastreak Wall Street boat crashed into the pier. “It was pulling into the dock as it normally does,” he said. “For whatever reason, today it didn’t stop.”

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Cebulash was seated on the second deck of the ferry when the impact occurred and sustained minor injuries. “The gentleman that was facing me, he flew out of his chair and kind of ended up kind of facing me on my lap. So I had some problems with my knee and my thigh,” he said. “I’ve been discharged from the hospital so I’m back at work.”

Passengers near areas of the ferry with glass sustained the worst injuries, according to Cebulash, who said he saw some severe injuries and significant bleeding on some people. He also said the impact was enough of a surprise that there wasn’t time to brace for the hit, which caused some passengers to be thrown.

According to Cebulash, the crew responded immediately after the impact with a first aid kit to attend to injured passengers. “It was a little bit chaotic but not terribly chaotic. At least at first. Passengers were trying to tend to other passengers who were more seriously injured,” he said. “When I looked out the window we were probably 100 feet from the dock. They must’ve been able to back it up or turn it around or something to get away from the dock and then they slowly eased back into the dock and this time they were able to dock. And then at that point, the EMS was pretty much there or within a minute, there were first responders on the boat.”

Cebulash said he has ridden the ferry for 16 or 17 years, probably riding between 5,000 and 6,000 times. This morning’s crash wasn’t his first experiencing a mishap. He said about 12 or 13 years ago, he was riding a ferry that experienced mechanical failure and couldn’t be put in reverse. The ferry hit the dock in that case as well, but Cebulash said the impact wasn’t as severe as today’s crash.

Because of his experience in the previous crash, Cebulash said he remains seated until the ferry is docked. But he added that the injuries were not as severe as the most recent crash.

Even after experiencing two ferry crashes, Cebulash said he doesn’t have second thoughts about boarding a ferry again. He said he has taken ferry rides in inclement weather — including eight-foot swells and 40 to 50 mile per hour winds — and crew members are able to dock the boat safely and get passengers to their destination on time.

“I don’t know what happened. I have no idea. I don’t know if it’s similar to what occurred on that fast ferry boat over 13 years ago in terms of a mechanical issue or what, but yeah, I have no hesitation to riding again,” Cebulash said.