April 23, 2005

Former Ferry Director pleads guilty in S.I. ferry case

Patrick J. Ryan yesterday entered a plea of guilty to seaman's manslaugher in relation to the 2003 crash of the Staten Island ferry Andrew J. Barberi that cost eleven lives. He also admitted making false statements to U.S. Coast Guard investigators.

The guilty plea came 10 days before Ryan was due to go on trial on eleven charges of seaman's manslaughter.

In a 90-minute hearing before Judge Edward Korman in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, Ryan pleaded guilty to one count of seaman's manslaughter covering all 11 deaths, as well as one charge that he made false statements to U.S. Coast Guard investigators.

Ryan admitted that he didn't enforce a two-pilot rule that required that there be two competent operators at the helm at all times when a vessel was under way

In return for his guilty plea, Ryan is expected to get a prison term of less than one year when sentenced.

Also entering a guilty plea yesterday was Ryan's brother in law, former Port Captain John Mauldin, who admitted making a false statement to National Transportation Safety Board investigators about enforcement of the two pilot rule.

Both Ryan and Mauldin resigned their positions before making their guilty pleas.

New York City is expected to continue to attempt to cap its liability in cases arising from the incident to the value of the vessel. However, yesterday's pleas are widely seen as posing a considerable problem for that defense.

United States Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf yesterday issued the following statement:

"In his guilty plea today to seaman's manslaughter, Ferry Director Patrick Ryan admitted his responsibility for the lax and unsafe procedures at the Staten Island Ferry Service that resulted in the deaths of eleven passengers and scores of serious injuries in the tragic crash of the Andrew J. Barberi. Safe practice and simple common sense demand that a ferry service put in place and enforce procedures adequate to respond to the sudden incapacitation of a pilot. As Director of Ferry Operations, Ryan failed in this most basic of duties, and as a result, the Barberi was left in the control of a single pilot without any other crewmember in a position to take command when that pilot lost control. Ryan compounded this crime by lying to government officials investigating the cause of the crash. The prosecutions arising out of the Barberi tragedy, including today's pleas, hold accountable both those on the Barberi and those on shore who were responsible for the crash, and who failed in their duty to ensure the safe operation of the ferry's entire fleet."

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