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Ferry crew member: Pilot was at helm

The damaged ferry is towed to the Brooklyn Naval Yard last month.
The damaged ferry is towed to the Brooklyn Naval Yard last month.

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CNN's Maria Hinojosa talks with New Yorkers who use the ferry service.
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CNN's Deborah Feyerick reports on the Staten Island ferry crash that killed 10 people.
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- The pilot of the Staten Island ferry that crashed into a pier last month, killing 10 people and injuring many others, was standing at the helm at the time of the accident, according to testimony at a congressional hearing Tuesday.

Crew member Robert Rush told the House Transportation Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Affairs that assistant captain Richard Smith, 55, was standing behind the controls and "never saw him slump over the wheel," according to details provided by New York City Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall.

"He said that he stood erect the entire time at the helm of the ship," Weinshall said. "He was sitting in the [position] they call the settee, which is behind Captain Smith, and he specified that Captain Smith was at the helm of the ship and did not slump over. He could not tell whether he lost consciousness because Captain Smith's back was to him."

Smith remains hospitalized from self-inflicted wounds sustained during a suicide attempt after the accident. His attorneys, Alan Abramson and Joel Cohen, say their client "passed out while operating the vessel."

Investigators also want to question the ferry's captain, Michael Gansas, 38, about his whereabouts prior to the collision.

City regulations call for the captain and assistant captain to be inside the pilot house when the boat is moving, but the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has said it has conflicting reports about Gansas' location. There are no data recorders, voice recorders or video recorders of bridge activity. NTSB investigator Marjorie Murtagh said in an affidavit that Gansas took control of the boat and steered it from the accident site to the terminal.

The damaged ship, the 310-foot Andrew Barbieri, is now stationed at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, in need of $8 million in repairs, according to the NTSB.

An estimated 1,500 passengers were aboard the ship when it crashed.


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