Crews, agencies honored for response to NYC ferry fire

(NEW YORK) – The U.S. Coast Guard presented public service commendations and certificates of merit Thursday at the Whitehall Ferry Terminal in Manhattan to the New York City Police and Fire Departments, and to the ferry and tug operators and crew who helped evacuate hundreds of passengers off Sandy Ground, a Staten Island ferry, due to a fire aboard the ship in December.

Rear Adm. John Mauger, the First Coast Guard District commander, and Capt. Zeita Merchant, the Coast Guard Sector New York commander and captain of the Port of New York, recognized first responders, tug and ferry operators and crew for their heroic actions that ensured passenger safety on the water and accountability of personnel transferred ashore at the St. George Ferry Terminal.

Capt. Zeita Merchant, Coast Guard Sector New York commander and captain of the Port of New York, addresses attendees at a award ceremony Thursday at Whitehall Ferry Terminal in New York. U.S. Coast Guard photo

An emergency mass passenger evacuation was ordered after Sandy Ground suffered an engine room fire Dec. 22 that disabled the ferry in the New York Harbor during rush hour. Five towing vessels responded to Sandy Ground’s distress call, where they surrounded the disabled ferry and pushed it out of the shipping channel while crews aboard Sandy Ground worked to extinguish the fire.

Upon notification of the maritime emergency, two partner ferries were able to maneuver alongside Sandy Ground and utilize their trained personnel to facilitate the transfer passengers to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and River Sprinter. The two ferries proceeded to transport the rescued passengers to St. George Ferry Terminal where emergency medical crews were standing by.

Public service commendations were presented to the captain and crews of the following vessels:

• Franklin Delano Roosevelt
• River Sprinter
• Paula Atwell
• Robert Burton
• Eastern Dawn
• Mister Jim
• Charles James

Crews from Sandy Ground, FDNY and NYPD were also recognized for their efforts to contain and control the fire while also coordinating with the Coast Guard to evacuate the passengers.

Certificates of merit were presented to FDNY, NYPD and Sandy Ground.

“I am deeply grateful for the exceptional efforts of our public transit operators, tug operators and first responders who worked tirelessly to ensure the safety of ferry passengers in the New York Harbor,” said Mauger. “Their prompt and coordinated response prevented a potentially disastrous situation from escalating, and their professionalism and dedication to their duties are a testament to their exceptional skills and training.”

The public service commendation is intended primarily to recognize personal for beneficial contributions to the Coast Guard’s responsibilities. Recipients are recognized for courage or initiative in advancing one or more Coast Guard missions, or a beneficial contribution in one mission area or a limited geographical area.

The certificate of merit recognizes significant endeavors such as displaying initiative in advancing one or more of the Coast Guard’s missions, or a significant effort that resulted in the completion of a project or program significantly beneficial to the Coast Guard’s missions and responsibilities.

The Coast Guard’s investigation into the cause of the Sandy Ground fire is ongoing.

– U.S. Coast Guard

By Rich Miller