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N.Y. Ferry Captain Summoned to Talks

Investigators to ask whether he was in the pilothouse during a crash that killed 10.

October 22, 2003|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — Federal investigators issued a subpoena Tuesday for the Staten Island ferry captain involved in the crash that killed 10 people and injured dozens.

The subpoena capped a day of wrangling between National Transportation Safety Board officials and the lawyer for Capt. Michael Gansas, who canceled a scheduled NTSB interview without public explanation.

Meanwhile, the assistant captain who was piloting the ferry when it plowed into a maintenance pier last week remained in critical condition and unable to talk after attempting suicide, his lawyer said.

The captain's whereabouts during the accident are considered a vital element of the investigation. City regulations require the captain to be in the ferry's pilothouse during docking, which could have provided backup if the pilot was stricken.

"I think the crux of this investigation is going to hinge upon the information provided by the two captains," said state Rep. Vito Fossella, who represents Staten Island, "and that has yet to take place."

The subpoena calls for Gansas to appear before NTSB investigators today.

Gansas' attorney, Catherine Foti, confirmed that she had received the subpoena but did not comment further.

Gansas told police immediately after the crash last week that he was in the pilothouse and that he tried to pull the pilot, Richard Smith, off the controls after he became unconscious, an official familiar with the investigation told Associated Press.

At least one deckhand has told investigators that Gansas was not in the pilothouse when the Andrew J. Barberi crashed into a pier, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The deckhand's account was questioned by Gansas, who said the crew member was not in a position to see anyone in the pilothouse, the official said.

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