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Published: Monday, 1/9/2006

Pilot in ferry crash fatal to 11 gets 18 months; N.Y. official gets year


NEW YORK The pilot at the helm of a Staten Island ferry during a deadly 2003 crash that killed 11 people was sentenced today to 18 months in prison. The city s former ferry director was sentenced to one year in prison.

The ferry director, Patrick Ryan, apologized to the families of the victims before he was sentenced to one year and a day. For my part of this, I m so terribly sorry, he said.

A probation official had recommended that the pilot, Richard Smith, get three months in prison and Ryan get six months.

Family members of victims pleaded with the judge to hand down the maximum punishment.

Christine Santuro, the sister of a victim, called the three-month recommendation for Smith an absolute joke.

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

The ferry crash was one of the worst mass-transit disasters in New York history.

On a blustery day, the ferry Andrew J. Barberi set out on a routine run across New York Harbor from lower Manhattan with about 1,500 passengers and Smith alone in the wheelhouse.

As the vessel approached Staten Island, Smith suffering from extreme fatigue and on painkillers blacked out. The ship hit a concrete maintenance pier at full speed, injuring dozens of passengers.

Smith, 57, who fled the accident and tried to kill himself by slashing his wrists, pleaded guilty in 2004 to negligent manslaughter. Ryan, 53, pleaded guilty to related charges last year, admitting he failed to enforce a rule requiring ferries be operated by two pilots whenever docking.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.

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