Just one month after a Rockaway ferry got stuck after taking off from Pier 11, the service once again found itself in hot—or rather—cold water again. On a chilly December evening, more than two dozen passengers were stranded when a Manhattan-bound ferry on the Rockaway route got caught on a sandbar.
Jake Nicholson, Noah Nicholson and Anthony Scotto were on the 5:15 p.m. ferry to Manhattan on Wednesday, December 27, to see the New York Rangers take on the Washington Capitols that evening. However, they never made it to the game. At 5:48 p.m., Jake Nicholson reached out to The Rockaway Times via Facebook. “I am currently on the 5:15 Rockaway Ferry headed for Manhattan. We have hit a sandbar in between Breezy Point and Coney Island. The boat stopped on a dime and sent everyone flying. They have told us there has been a mechanical failure, but I don’t believe it,” his initial message read. And so began an ordeal for Nicholson and 26 other people on board, that would continue for several hours, with air temperatures reaching below 20 degrees that night.
The Rockaway Times reached out to NYC Ferry for further confirmation of the incident, but it wasn’t until after 8 p.m. that the agency publicly acknowledged the incident via social media. “A 5:15 departure from Rockaway ran aground on a sandbar. Emergency responders are on the scene. All passengers are safe. No injuries reported. All other NYC Ferry service operating without interruption,” NYC Ferry tweeted.
Meanwhile, Nicholson provided updates while onboard. He confirmed that everyone on board was okay and was wearing life jackets. There was also an open bar, with passengers being treated to free beverages. However, another passenger on board, Kevin Fitzgerald, said this opportunity was later cut off. “They cut us off of any drinks,” Fitzgerald said during a live broadcast on Fox 5, “Maybe because everyone took advantage.”
Fitzgerald continued to provide live updates, noting that everyone on board was okay, but intermittent shut offs of electricity and heat on board made the situation more uncomfortable. But help was on the way.
The FDNY, NYPD and U.S. Coast Guard responded to the scene to figure out the best way to rescue the passengers on board the boat called the Flyer, which was stuck in roughly two feet of water. Not able to get a large rescue vessel close enough without itself getting stuck, the FDNY used a small raft to transport people, two at a time, to larger rescue vessels.
At nearly 11:30 p.m., the FDNY reported that the rescue mission was a success. “We devised a shuttle operation to remove 27 people from the ferry, onto a smaller fireboat, onto the medium-sized fireboat, and eventually onto our 140’ fireboat, the Fireboat 343,” FDNY Chief of Special Operations John Esposito said. “It was difficult because they had to climb down a 12’ straight ladder, down the back of the ferry, onto our boat, then transferred onto several different boats. It was a very slow, tedious, time-consuming operation, with safety in mind. In 20-degree weather, out in the water with the breeze blowing - it was definitely very cold for everybody involved. NYPD, FDNY, and the United States Coast Guard were out there dealing with the elements. The passengers are now out of the elements, we have no reported injuries.”
This incident occurred just one month after a Rockaway bound ferry got stuck on a submerged object just after leaving Pier 11 in Manhattan, leaving roughly 114 passengers stranded. Being close to the pier, those passengers were transported to safety within a short time. With the December 27 event being the second stranding incident within a month, local elected officials like State Senator Joe Addabbo, Jr., are calling for NYC Ferry to do better.
“We are glad that no one was seriously injured during this incident,” Addabbo said. “However, the city needs to seriously improve their response time in situations like this, where 27 people were stuck out on the water in sub-freezing conditions for hours before rescue boats could arrive. This is the second time since November 27 that a NYC Ferry boat crashed into a submerged object, and measures need to be taken to prevent accidents like this from occurring if people are expected to trust and use the city’s ferry system. I’m hopeful that improved safety measures can be implemented before the city’s luck runs out.”
Following the incident, NYC Ferry released a statement, saying, “First and foremost, our focus is always on the safety of our riders, and we truly appreciate the support of the USCG, FDNY and NYPD for their assistance with safely transporting our riders off of the vessel last night. While preliminary information indicates the vessel was off route, that’s something investigators will look at. Safety is our number one priority, and we will continue to review our training programs in order to ensure rider and crew safety.”
In a briefing, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the incident was due to human error and that the pilot was removed from his work. Hornblower, the company that operates the ferry service, admitted that the boat was off route. Maps from MarineTraffic.com also confirm this, showing the off-course path the boat took before getting stranded.
The passengers that were rescued were taken to Brooklyn Army Terminal and were later transported to their destinations. NYC Ferry compensated the passengers with a yearly ferry pass, if they choose to ride the boat again after that ordeal, plus a dinner and movie package at iPic Theatre in the South Street Seaport, plus a $50 Uber credit. Also, the Nicholsons and Scotto were reimbursed for the missed Rangers game, and were given tickets to a future game.
Photos from MarineTraffic.com and FDNY.BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS