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Conditions normal before ferry crash, chief engineer tells NTSB

By the CNN Wire Staff
The Andrew J. Barberi, which crashed on Saturday, was involved in another accident seven years ago.
The Andrew J. Barberi, which crashed on Saturday, was involved in another accident seven years ago.
  • NEW: No engine alarms sounded before the crash, chief engineer tells NTSB
  • Ferry captain was unable to slow down, city transit official says
  • Ferry in Staten Island accident was involved in prior crash, officials say
  • Crew members tested negative in alcohol tests, according to NTSB official

New York (CNN) -- Early interviews with the chief engineer of a ferry that crashed into the Staten Island terminal in New York City indicate all conditions were normal before the incident, investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board said Sunday.

At least 36 people were injured when the ferry Andrew J. Barberi crashed Saturday morning.

The chief engineer told NTSB investigators that no engine alarms sounded before the crash, according to the NTSB's Robert Sumwalt.

Additionally, the chief engineer said he had not encountered any propulsion control problems previously on the boat, Sumwalt said.

Janette Sadik-Khan, the commissioner of the city's Department of Transportation, said Saturday that about one minute before the ferry reached the terminal, the captain sounded an alarm because he was unable to pull back on the throttle to slow the boat.

Video: Two crashes in less than a decade
Video: Ferry passenger: Crash was 'chaos'
Video: Dozens injured in ferry crash

Sumwalt said NTSB investigators will continue interviewing crew members Monday, including the captain and four others in the engine room at the time of the crash.

Although the NTSB is not mandated to look into all marine accidents, it sent seven investigators from Washington because the ferry was involved in another crash in October 2003. That crash killed 11 people and injured 42.

"We felt that since there had been a previous accident involving the Andrew J. Barberi, we wanted to come back and see if there are any recurring issues that may have been left over from that," Sumwalt said late Saturday night. "I don't have any reason to believe that that is the case."

Officials have already conducted alcohol tests on crew members, a routine procedure in crash investigations. Those results came back negative, Sumwalt said.

The NTSB is awaiting results from drug tests, also a routine process.

Officials will spend about four to seven days at the site of the crash, interviewing passengers and crew and conducting inspections. The results of the investigation will not be available for at least a year, Sumwalt said.

The ferry apparently had mechanical problems when it crashed, authorities said.

The "allision" -- when a vessel strikes a stationary object -- caused sizable damage, Sumwalt said.

New York Fire Department Deputy Chief Bill Tanzosh said the impact left two breaches in the hull about 17 feet above the water line. One measured about 4 feet by 6 feet and the other was 4 feet by 4 feet, he said.

The vessel was carrying 252 passengers and 18 crew members at the time of the crash, U.S. Coast Guard Spokeswoman Barbara Miller said.

CNN's Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.