A Staten Island ferry with a history of accidents, including a fatal wreck in 2003, malfunctioned as it approached its terminal and smashed into a pier with a jolt that tossed passengers to the deck and hurt as many as 37 people.

The accident happened at around 9:20 am (1850 IST) yesterday as the Andrew J Barberi arrived at the St George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island, carrying 252 passengers and 18 crew.

Passenger Jason Watler, 30, of St George, said he became alarmed when the ferry approached the shore faster than usual and ran toward the back of the boat.

“It was not slowing down,” he said. “He was going too fast.”

Then, he heard a “a real big boom.”

“I stumbled a little bit,” he said. “People were screaming. People were crying.”

The accident appeared to be the result of a mechanical failure, New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said.

The ferry’s throttle failed to engage as it prepared to dock, she said, meaning the crew was unable to use the engines to apply reverse thrust and slow down. The cause of the malfunction is still unknown, she said.

The approximately 3,000-ton, 310-foot (94-metre) - long ferry was moving at about 5 knots, or 5.8 miles per hour (9.3 kph), when it hit.

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