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Ceremony Remembers Ferry Crash Victims

October 30, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) _ A somber ceremony, prayers, music and the tossing of a wreath into New York Harbor on Wednesday marked the loss of 10 lives aboard a Staten Island ferry two weeks ago.

About 300 people, including friends and family of the victims, attended the ceremony on a breezy, damp evening in which the sounds of weeping mourners, approaching ferries and a distant ship’s foghorn could be heard.

``Every New Yorker knows the heart of Staten Island is in pain,″ said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who led the ceremony on Staten Island. ``Every one of us know that for each grieving family, your sorrow has no bounds.″

Bloomberg’s words were followed by an multi-faith benediction of clergy from various Staten Island churches, synagogues and mosques. A police officer and a firefighter tossed the wreath.

The ferry slammed into a concrete pier as it completed its trip to Staten Island on Oct. 15, ripping wood and metal to pieces and injuring dozens of people. Some passengers had their limbs severed, including one Staten Island man who lost his legs but was kept alive with the help of a visiting British nurse.

Investigators are looking into the whereabouts of the ferry’s crew members at the time of the accident.

Capt. Michael Gansas told police immediately after the accident that he tried to pull Richard Smith, the assistant captain piloting the ferry, off the controls after Smith lost consciousness. But some said that was not the case, and Gansas has not appeared for interviews with federal investigators, despite being subpoenaed. His attorney has said he is still too traumatized.

Smith attempted suicide after the crash and is recovering at a hospital.

Federal prosecutors have become involved with the investigation of Gansas and his crew. U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf said Wednesday the move was needed ``to fulfill the federal government’s significant responsibility″ to protect ferry passengers.

The victims’ families said they were unsatisfied with the way the investigation was proceeding and accused the city of keeping them uninformed.

``We’re trying to keep our sanity from overboiling inside over this tragedy,″ said Eusevio Santana, whose brother died in the crash.

Many of the 10 killed were from Staten Island; others came from other parts of New York and New Jersey. The victims are: Frank R. Sullivan, 46; John Healy, 44; Darius M. Marshall, 25; Joseph Bagarozza, 35; Pio Canini, 52; Vincent Ferrante, 26; Louis Robinson, 50; John Valinski, 40; Carmen Huertas, 42; and Guillermo Paguay, 44.

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