Tugboat crew, owner want $8 million for helping in Staten Island ferry crash

Friday, November 3rd 2006, 10:13 pm
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ A tugboat owner and crew believe a maritime custom entitles them to $8 million for securing the Staten Island ferry after it crashed in 2003, killing 11 passengers and injuring dozens.

The claims against the city were filed under a tradition called ``pure marine salvage,'' which says boats that aid others in trouble are entitled to compensation, The New York Times and New York Daily News reported Friday.

The tugboat helped the ferry Andrew J. Barberi back to the terminal after it slammed into a pier during evening rush hour. That allowed emergency crews to begin helping those aboard the ferry.

``As far as I'm concerned, my men were the heroes of the whole thing,'' said Dorothy Julian, president of Henry Marine, the company that owns the tugboat. ``They just jumped into action.''

Tugboat mate Robert Seckers is seeking $2 million and plans to distribute the money among the four-person crew of the Dorothy J. The company is asking for $6 million.

``I don't need to be a hero,'' said Seckers, 59. ``But every crew member on that tug was a hero, and they didn't get any acknowledgment, thank-you or anything for it. It wasn't right. They went far above the call of duty.''

The 2003 claims were filed in U.S. District Court in New York.

The city disputes the tug crew's claims, believing the Dorothy J. has a city contract requiring it to help out in case of trouble. The city also contends the boat was not going to sink.

``The (crash) was tragic, but did not involve a case of 'marine peril,''' a city lawyer wrote in one filing.

Ferry pilot Richard Smith was sentenced to 18 months in prison for passing out at the helm. The city's former ferry director, Patrick Ryan, was sentenced to a year and a day for not enforcing a rule requiring two pilots to operate ferries during docking.