NTSB issues alert on passenger vessel stairway hazards

Ferry hit pier with sufficient force to cause severe damage — and send passengers standing in stairways flying Ferry hit pier with sufficient force to cause severe damage — and send passengers standing in stairways flying

JULY 8, 2013 — The National Transportation Safety Board has issued a safety alert on passenger vessel stairway hazards during docking and undocking.

Falls in stairways caused serious injury in the January 9, 2013, allision while docking of the passenger ferry Seastreak Wall Street with Pier 11, Lower Manhattan, New York, NY.

Five stairways provided passenger access between three deck levels. As the vessel approached the pier, some passengers stood in stairways as they anticipated arrival. When the vessel unexpectedly struck the dock, passengers lost their balance and fell, causing head injuries, fractured ribs, and cuts and bruises. The most severely injured passenger fell down a stairway and suffered a broken neck, brain hemorrhage, lung collapse, facial fractures and lacerations, and nerve injuries. He spent more than five weeks in a hospital.

The NTSB encourages vessel operators to control passenger access to stairways while docking and undocking.

What can be done?

Vessel passengers: Even if you see unrestricted stairways on board your vessel, please avoid them during docking and undocking. A momentary loss of balance can cause you to fall and be seriously injured.
Reduce the risk of injuries by remaining seated or holding on to a handrail or seat back during docking. Always be prepared for unexpected vessel movement.

Vessel operators: To reduce the risk of serious injuries, develop procedures to control passenger access to stairways during docking and undocking.