Overheated engine causes ferry emergency

January 26, 2011 2:46:11 PM PST
Passengers huddled together wearing life vests on board a stalled New York waterway ferry, going nowhere in the icy waters of the Hudson.

Right from the start there were problems. The Moira Smith left the terminal in Edgewater late, around 9:30 this morning. It was experiencing mechanical problems.

As it crossed the river, heading towards Midtown, Tony Berlin and more than two dozen other passengers knew something was wrong.

"You could feel the engine was chugging along and they said, 'We are going to turn around and go back the other way and that's when I started seeing the smoke," Berlin said.

Tony took pictures where you can see the black smoke pouring out of the back on the ferry.

There was so much smoke, alarms were sounding. Everyone on board was forced to go outside in the cold.

"You could see the black smoke in the back and it looked red back there, so we thought there were flames, weren't sure. No was going back there to look," Berlin said.

Fire Chief Bob Christiansen spotted the smoking ferry and rushed to mobilize his men who are volunteers.

At the same time the captain of the ferry had called for backup. A second vessel, the Robert Roe, pulled up along side the disabled boat.

"They helped us hop on the other boat. It was a little bigger boat, so we had to jump up but they got everyone on there," Berlin said.

And then a first for the Edgewater fire department, the chief showed me the ladder that they stretched from the shoreline to the ferry, which was now bobbing about 10 feet from the rocks.

"They had to crawl on the ladder to get over onto it. We stretched a line on and extinguished the fire. My guys did an excellent job," Christiansen said.

Officials say at least one engine on the Moira Smith overheated and began smoking, that there never a fire.

The ferry was taken back to the NY Waterway terminal with the assistance of fire boats from Jersey City, NYC harbor squad and the Coast Guard.

Further investigation of the incident will be conducted by the US Coast Guard.

New York Waterway operates commuter ferries every 30 minutes between the Grand Cove Marina in Edgewater Landing and the terminal on West 39th Street.

The Moira Smith was one of the ferryboats that rescued passengers from US Airways Flight 1549 two years ago. The boat's crew rescued 14 of the plane's passengers.

The ferry was named after NYPD officer Moira Smith, who died evacuating people from the south tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11th.