A rush hour commuter ferry with more than 320 passengers aboard crashed Wednesday morning as it approached a Wall Street pier, knocking riders off their feet and down stairwells, injuring more than 70 people, police said.
Two people were critically hurt -- one with a head injury. Nine were serious, 17 were guarded and dozens more were minor. No passengers were thrown into the water, officials said.
The Seastreak ferry left Highlands, N.J. at 8 a.m. with 326 people aboard, including five crew members, and had a hard landing at Pier 11, which is located at South Street and Gouverneur Lane. It struck a loading barge that it was passing while trying to dock, according to Seastreak President James Barker.
"There was a jolt when that occurred, throwing the people forward into their seats and the walls," Barker told NBC 4 New York.
City officials said the ferry hit two slips and was traveling at about 10-12 knots, equal to 11-15 mph.The front of the ferry had a large gash after the crash.
Passenger Sean Boyle told NBC 4 New York that the vessel seemed to head "full speed right into the pier," and said some riders were thrown down the stairs on the boat.
"Everybody got jolted right out of their seats," he said.
Police said a total of 74 people were taken to hospitals.
Riders said the crash took everyone by surprise.
"I was talking to somebody and the next thing I knew, I was on the ground," said Ashley Furman, who said she was thrown 6 feet and knocked out.
Authorities said the most seriously hurt was a 39-year-old man with the head injury.
Dee Wertz was on shore waiting for the ferry and said "it was coming in a little wobbly."
"It hit the right side of the boat on the dock hard, like a bomb," she said. After impact, the boat docked and passengers raced off, she said.
"I think people just wanted to get the heck off the boat as soon as they could," she said.
Seastreak carries commuters from ports in New Jersey to Pier 11, East 35th Street and World Financial Center, according to its website. In its five-vessel fleet are four boats that can carry 400 passengers and one that can carry 149.
The Coast Guard said it was on scene and assisting in the investigation, which would include routine drug and alcohol tests of the ferry captain. The crew passed initial breath tests Wednesday, officials said.
The 10-year-old ferry, called the Seastreak Wall Street, was last inspected in July 2012, right after new engines were installed, Coast Guard spokesman Charles Rowe said.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it was launching a team to investigate.