A group of 11 kayakers collided Tuesday evening with a New York Waterway ferry near Pier 79 on Manhattan’s Hudson River shore, sending police scrambling to recover the paddlers, five with injuries.
News photographs and social media images from the scene showed first responders on the New York Police Department boat P.O. Edward Byrne and other vessels pulling people from the water, amid drifting kayaks of the plastic, sit-on-top type.
— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) August 31, 2016
The 88’6”x26’ catamaran ferry Jersey City had departed the mid-town terminal at West 39th Street when the collision happened around 5:45 p.m. The Coast Guard Sector New York station on Staten Island dispatched a 45’ Response Boat Medium to join the NYPD Harbor Police and Special Operations unit, along with fire boats from New York and Jersey City.
Police said they arrived within five minutes to find ferry crews trying to assist scattered kayakers who had been in eight boats. Most seriously injured was Jay Cartegena, a senior instructor with the Manhattan Kayak Company, a tour service based at Pier 84 just a few blocks north of the ferry terminal. He suffered severe lacerations to his arm, a broken rib and punctured lung.
“He had lost a lot of blood and was in and out of consciousness,” police Inspector David Driscoll said at a press conference.
The guide was on his kayak and “it was full of blood…we knew we had to get him into the boat,” said police Officer Tommy Le. Le, an emergency medical technician, applied a tourniquet to the man’s arm and triaged two men and two women with shoulder and back injuries who were taken to Manhattan hospitals.
The Coast Guard and NYPD are conducting the investigation “and we are cooperating fully,” said Pat Smith, a spokesman for New York Waterway. Investigators with Coast Guard Sector New York are handling the case, said petty officer Sabrina Clarke.
Local news media citing sources said the ferry captain was cooperating with investigators and passed a Breathalyzer test with no sign of alcohol. Driscoll said sun glare may have been a factor, with late day sunlight cast across the river on the ferry and kayakers near the eastern shore.
Kayak touring is common along the city’s Hudson River waterfront, both with livery services and nonprofit boat clubs.
“It’s a mixed use waterway so you have both commercial and recreational vessels,” Driscoll said. “Both are required to stay out of each other’s way.”