By David Brand
A ferry passenger plunged into the East River during a trip from DUMBO, Brooklyn to Hunters Point shortly before 5:30 p.m. Monday.
The man survived the sudden splash after crew members threw him a life saver and a ladder, but the chaotic moment put a damper on the trip home for dozens of stunned commuters.
“We’d cleared both the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. I opened my eyes and the guy was already in the water,” said passenger John Welsh, 31.
A source familiar with the incident said the man likely jumped overboard, which could be considered a felony.
Welsh said that he heard commotion and felt the boat abruptly turn around. Fellow passengers stared out the vessel’s windows with their hands covering their mouths, he said.
“We did a tight 180 and there he was in the East River,” he said. “[Crew members] seemed to very calmly follow a protocol.”
Welsh said the ferry crew acted swiftly to save the man, who appeared to be in his late-20s or early-30s and who was accompanied by an elderly woman.
The man climbed up the ladder and looked “exhausted and embarrassed,” Welsh said.
A crew member wrapped the man in a large, thick blanket, Welsh said.
“You alright, bro?” another passenger asked.
The man said he was okay.
“OK. Good. You scared the s— out of us,” the passenger responded.
After the man was safely on board the boat, a crew member addressed the passengers over the loudspeaker and informed them that the boat would return to DUMBO.
“They filled out paperwork at the DUMBO stop for ten minutes and we were on our way,” Welsh said.
In a statement, NYC Ferry operated by Hornblower said crew members receive extensive rescue training.
“NYC Ferry crew are trained to respond to all related emergencies, including emotionally disturbed persons,” the agency said. “In addition to having over 30 security cameras on the boat, we coordinate closely with NYPD and FDNY harbor ops to ensure the utmost safety of our riders.”
The ferry was part of the East River line, which makes stops at Wall Street/Pier 11, DUMBO, Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Hunters Point South in Long Island City before returning to Manhattan at East 34th Street.
NYC Ferry carried 3.7 million passengers in its first year, according to the city, which will invest $300 million in the ferry service over the next five years, including $35 million in Fiscal Year 2019.
This was the first incident of a person going overboard on a ferry since NYC Ferry launched in May 2017, a spokesperson for the New York City Economic Development Corporation said.
But people often end up in the waters around New York City, often because they are attempting suicide or because they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
In August 2017, a man jumped from the Staten Island Ferry, prompting a large-scale search and rescue operation, DNAinfo reported. The man’s body washed ashore a few days later. In 2014, a drunk man dove off the Circle Line.
In 2016, a suspected thief leapt into the Hudson River near Battery Park and was rescued by crew member from NY Waterway, which operates Hudson River ferries. A spokesperson for NY Waterways told the Daily News that staff members had rescued roughly 250 people from the waters around New York City in the company’s 31-year history.
NYC Ferry crew members have made two rescues in 2018 so far, including saving one person who fell off a jet ski.
Tomorrow marks the maiden voyage of a new route connecting Long Island City with the Lower East Side. The route departs from Gantry Plaza State Park and enables Western Queens commuters to travel to the Lower East Side in about a half-hour.
The city’s ferry system shuttles commuters to and from four other Queens docks located at Hunters Point South, Long Island City, Astoria and Rockaway. There are eight stops in Brooklyn between Bay Ridge and Greenpoint and four ports in Manhattan between 34th Street and Wall Street.
Earlier this month, the city extended ferry service to Soundview in the Bronx and East 90th Street in Manhattan.