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Last Updated: Monday, 9 January 2006, 23:23 GMT
New York ferry crash pilot jailed
Damage sustained during the accident
The Staten Island ferry hit a pier at full speed
The pilot at the helm of New York's Staten Island ferry that hit a pier in 2003, killing 11 people, has been jailed for 18 months for manslaughter.

Assistant Captain Richard Smith, who had been suffering from extreme fatigue and was taking painkillers, passed out on the bridge of the boat.

When he realised what had happened, he tried to kill himself. He apologised for his actions in court.

The city's former ferry director was sentenced to one year in prison.

The accident happened in October 2003 in New York harbour, as the ferry travelled from Lower Manhattan to Staten Island.

Smith, who was taking medicine to treat his high blood pressure, blacked out, and the vessel, travelling at full speed, was carried by the wind and current into a maintenance pier.

The collision tore one side of the ship open and left dozens of the 1,500 passengers cut and badly injured.

Relatives' anger

Smith tried to slash his own wrists while still on the boat, then fled the scene and tried to shoot himself with a pellet gun.

"I will regret for the rest of my life that I did not just call in sick," he told the court.

Assistant Captain Richard Smith
Richard Smith said he wished he had phoned in sick

"I was on the wheel. I was responsible. I stand ready to suffer the consequences."

Ryan said: "For my part of this, I'm so terribly sorry."

Smith, 57, pleaded guilty to negligent manslaughter.

The former NYC ferry director, Patrick Ryan, 53, admitted that he failed to enforce a rule requiring ferries to be operated by two pilots during docking. Ryan was alone on the bridge, as the vessel approached the pier at Staten Island.

Some of the victims' relatives called for lengthy sentences.

"You are no better than a drunken driver," Debra Palamero, the sister of a victim, told Smith.

However the sentences were less than proposed in guidelines, after a probation report concluded that "the lion's share of culpability [rests] with the higher level management at the ferry service".

1. Ferry approaches the St George Ferry Terminal. Witnesses say the boat was travelling faster than normal, and was on an unusual course
2. Ferry hits maintenance pier. Long pilings on the pier tear through the boat's lower deck
3. Ferry is reversed into berth at the terminal; emergency crews arrive to assist the injured

NYC ferry crash probe begins
16 Oct 03 |  Americas
Ten dead in NYC ferry disaster
16 Oct 03 |  Americas
Witnesses describe ferry panic
16 Oct 03 |  Americas
In pictures: Staten Island ferry accident
16 Oct 03 |  Photo Gallery

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