NEW YORK — A high-speed ferry loaded with hundreds of commuters from New Jersey crashed into a dock in lower Manhattan on Wednesday during the morning rush hour, injuring around 50 people, at least two critically.
Passengers aboard the Seastreak Wall Street said scores of people who had been standing, waiting to disembark, were hurled to the deck by the impact.
"We were pulling into the dock. The boat hit the dock. We just tumbled on top of each other. I got thrown into everybody else. ... People were hysterical, crying," said Ellen Foran, 57, of Neptune City, N.J.
The accident, which ripped open part the boat's hull like an aluminum can, happened at 8:45 a.m. at a pier near the South Street Seaport, at Manhattan's southern tip.
Firefighters were still carrying people away on flat-board stretchers an hour after the crash.
More than 340 passengers and five crew members were aboard the ferry, which had arrived from Atlantic Highlands, a part of the Jersey Shore still struggling to recover from Superstorm Sandy.
Passenger Frank McLaughlin, 46, whose home was filled with 5 feet of water in the storm, said he was thrown forward and wrenched his knee in the impact.
He said some other passengers were bloodied when they banged into walls and toppled to the floor.
Dee Wertz, who was on shore waiting for the ferry, saw the impact. She said that just moments before it hit, she had been having a conversation with a ferry employee about how the boat's captains had been complaining lately about its maneuverability.
"He was telling me that none of these guys like this boat," she said. "It was coming in a little wobbly. It hit the right side of the boat on the dock hard, like a bomb."
After the impact, the boat was able to dock normally. Wertz said passengers raced off once the ramp was down.
"I think people just wanted to get the heck off the boat as soon as they could," she said.
People answering the phone at Seastreak's offices in New Jersey referred questions to a lawyer, who did not immediately return phone messages.
Ferry accidents happen every few years in New York. In 2003, 11 people were killed when a Staten Island Ferry crashed into a pier on Staten Island after its pilot passed out at the wheel. Three people were badly hurt and about 40 injured when the same ferry hit the same pier in 2010, because of a mechanical problem.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it had dispatched investigators to the scene.
Associated Press writers Karen Matthews, Larry Neumeister, Ted Shaffrey and Verena Dobnik contributed to this report.