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NYC fires captain of ferry that crashed

Former ferry captain Michael Gansas, left, leaves court November 5 in New York.
Former ferry captain Michael Gansas, left, leaves court November 5 in New York.

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Michael Gansas, captain of the Staten Island ferry that crashed into a pier in October, has been fired by the New York City Department of Transportation for not cooperating with investigators.

In a statement released Wednesday, the DOT accused Gansas of "failure to cooperate with National Transportation Safety Board and city investigations into the October 15 tragedy of the Andrew J. Barberi."

The ferry, carrying about 1,500 passengers from Lower Manhattan across New York Harbor's Upper Bay to Staten Island, veered off course and slammed full speed into the pier. (Full story)

The impact killed 10 passengers and sent several dozens to hospitals, including three who suffered amputations.

Gansas, 38, was suspended without pay on October 22 after failing to meet with city lawyers, citing psychological trauma and doctors' order to avoid stress.

Under a court order, he finally met with investigators on November 6. But Gansas invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, declining to tell the NTSB anything more than his name and age. (Full story)

Gansas' attorney, Stephen Sheinbaum, said he had "no comment at this time."

Investigators want to ask the captain where he was before the ferry crashed, what position the controls were in, and about the condition of assistant captain Richard Smith, who was piloting the boat when it crashed into a maintenance pier, the NTSB wrote in an affidavit supporting the court order.

Federal prosecutors took over the investigation two weeks ago. (Full story)

The DOT said Smith's status remained unchanged -- suspended without pay. It said that at the request of the U.S. attorney's office it postponed a hearing for Smith scheduled Friday.

The NTSB has ruled out mechanical difficulty as a potential contributing factor to the crash. There are no data recorders, voice recorders or video recorders of bridge activity.

Smith's attorneys, Alan Abramson and Joel Cohen, say their client "passed out while operating the vessel." Smith, 55, attempted suicide shortly after the crash, according to authorities.

The Staten Island ferry crash killed 10 passengers, sent dozens to hospitals.
The Staten Island ferry crash killed 10 passengers, sent dozens to hospitals.

Gansas took control of the boat and steered it from the accident site to the terminal berth, NTSB investigator Marjorie Murtagh said in an affidavit after the crash.

Robert Rush, one of the two mates on the 310-foot ferry, told investigators he saw Smith standing up minutes before the crash, not slumped over the controls, according to New York City transportation commissioner Iris Weinshall.

Both Gansas and Smith tested negative for alcohol or illegal drug impairment, but investigators want to check Smiths' prescription drug records.

Fifty-three passengers and the survivors of two who were killed have filed notice they intend to sue the city for damages.

The damaged ship was moved to the Brooklyn Naval Yard, in need of $8 million in repairs, according to the NTSB.


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