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Dozens hurt in New York ferry accident

Investigators from the US transport safety agency will interview Thursday the captain of a packed rush-hour ferry that crashed into a New York City pier, injuring nearly 60 people.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it also planned to examine the damaged ferry a day after the incident, as part of an 12-person investigation it expected to take a week.

"NTSB will look at crew, management, oversight, human performance, engineering and survival factors," it said via microblogging site Twitter.

The accident took place shortly before 9:00 am (1400 GMT) on Pier 11 in the East River in lower Manhattan, not far from Wall Street. The ferry was arriving from New Jersey.

"The latest report we have is that 58 people were injured. Two of those were critical," coast guard spokesman Charles Rowe said.

Sobriety tests were given to crew members, and preliminary results were negative, the coast guard spokesman said.

There were 326 passengers and five crew on board, Rowe said.

Both of the passengers in critical condition suffered head injuries, authorities said.

Witnesses said the ferry, the Seastreak Wall Street, was going too quickly when it approached the pier.

Passenger Sean Boyle told the local NBC affiliate that the ferry arrived "at full speed" and crashed "right into the pier."

"They didn't make any announcement," Boyle added.

Television images showed a large gash in the hull of the vessel.

Many commuters were standing when the accident occurred, ready to disembark, and many had mobile telephones in their hands, leaving them no way to absorb the shock of the collision.

"I was standing on the boat... and the next thing I know, I was six feet in the air," said Ashley Furman. Some passengers panicked as they tried to disembark.

Police and firefighters evacuated the injured from the scene on stretchers. Many were taken to area hospitals. Other passengers were covered in blankets as they awaited assistance on the pier.

The cause of the accident was not immediately clear. Weather conditions were good at the time of the accident, with hardly any wind and good visibility.

"Basically, it was a hard landing," city transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan told a brief news conference, explaining that the ferry was traveling at a speed of 10 to 12 knots when it missed its docking target.

The company that owned the ferry apologized for the accident, saying on its website it was "simply shocked and stunned that this happened."

"Our thoughts and prayers to continue to be with those who were injured," the message said, adding that it was cooperating with the NTSB and the Coast Guard in the investigation.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg briefly visited the scene following the accident.

It was an accident-prone day for New York as later Wednesday a 200-foot crane came crashing down on a building under construction near the East River waterfront in Queens, injuring seven people, three seriously.

Dozens of ferries bring thousands of commuters from New Jersey or Brooklyn to Manhattan every day, but accidents are rare.

In the most serious one, in October 2003, 11 people were killed and 70 others injured when a Staten Island ferry slammed into a pier at full speed.

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