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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 October, 2003, 01:31 GMT 02:31 UK
Witnesses describe ferry panic
Red Cross worker assists a distraught man
Passengers have been traumatised by the incident

Witnesses have told of the panic on board a New York ferry that crashed into Staten Island pier at the end of its journey from Lower Manhattan.

They described how fellow passengers were hit as the ferry ploughed through pilings at St George's terminal. Others dived into the water to escape.

Below deck, people feared a bomb or a fire might have caused the boat to shake.

"The ferry was coming too fast," said witness William Gonzalez, who lives in a nearby apartment complex. "They had no control to stop the boat."

Passenger Bob Carroll told local television: "Everybody's screaming. The pilings protruded through the right hand side of the boat. Everybody jumped for their lives.

Everyone started yelling and shouting... pushing people back down the stairs
Woman passenger
"People were piling up, scrambling over each other.

"The whole side of the boat looked like a can opener opened. You could see some people were not going to make it. Some people clearly were not going to make it."

Absolute panic

"I heard what sounded like an explosion and my first thought was that it was a bomb," said another passenger, retired police sergeant Paul Wiedemann.

"The structure of the boat was ripped open about half or three-quarters of the way down. It seemed that the boat didn't slow down and then the lower side appeared to cave in."

One unidentified woman said: "Everyone just started yelling and shouting. They were turning around and pushing people back down the stairs."

Another man told local television: "There was absolute panic. Women were crying, men were crying. Everyone was putting on life jackets."

Rose Arce was in another ferry behind the stricken boat, and described its approach into dock as erratic.

"The boat wasn't running the straight course it usually does," she said.

She said both boats were having trouble navigating a straight line through the harbour because high winds had caused large waves.

"It was very, very hard to keep your balance while standing up," she said. "In fact, people were holding on to the side of the boat."




WATCH AND LISTEN
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg
"There is no indication this was anything other than a tragic accident"


The BBC's Nick Thatcher
"Those on board have spoken of panic and confusion"



SEE ALSO:
Ten dead in NYC ferry disaster
15 Oct 03  |  Americas


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