Second crew member of crashed ferry suspended
From Phil Hirschkorn
NEW YORK (CNN) -- The New York City Department of Transportation announced Thursday it had suspended a second Staten Island ferry worker for failing to cooperate fully with the investigation of last week's deadly ferry crash.
Robert Rush, 56, a mate on the ferry, was suspended without pay, department commissioner Iris Weinshall said.
The punitive move followed Wednesday's suspension of Capt. Michael Gansas without pay. Both men have declined to speak to either lawyers for the city's transportation department or federal investigators.
Gansas' attorney, Stephen Sheinbaum, has said in a written statement that the captain avoided scheduled interviews with the National Transportation Safety Board both Tuesday and Wednesday because "as a result of the trauma" Gansas "has been advised to avoid further stress in the immediate future."
The NTSB is leading the inquiry into the October 15 crash of the 310-foot ferry, the Andrew J. Barberi, that killed 10 people and injured dozens more.
Gansas, 38, a Navy veteran who has piloted the ferry for nearly eight years, led the 14-person ferry crew but was not at the helm when the accident occurred.
Investigators have been focusing on where crew members were when the ferry slammed into a Staten Island pier. Regulations require both the captain and assistant captain be stationed in the pilot house as the boat docks.
The NTSB has said the ferry had no mechanical or engine failure.
Rep. Vito Fosella, R-New York, who toured the damaged boat with NTSB investigators Wednesday, said he has been informed by investigators that either a deckhand or a mate was in the pilot house before the crash.
Investigators are focusing on the actions of assistant captain Richard Smith, who was piloting the boat and may have passed out on the controls, possibly due to a medical condition.
Law enforcement sources said Smith left the boat and went to his home immediately after the crash and attempted suicide. He is hospitalized in critical but stable condition and is unable to speak, his attorney said.
Both Smith and Gansas tested negative for alcohol impairment or narcotics. The NTSB has subpoenaed Smith's prescription drug records, but has yet to receive them.
Fosella, who represents Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn in Congress, is calling on Staten Island District Attorney William Murphy to open a grand jury investigation.
Murphy issued subpoenas Thursday, but has not impaneled a grand jury.
"We are simply gathering facts," said Monica Brown, a spokeswoman for the district attorney. "The subpoenas are aiding us in our efforts to determine whether there was any criminality involved."