News21 - National Just another WordPress site Fri, 16 Jul 2010 18:58:26 +0000 en hourly 1 AZ: Traffic Laws for Arresting Immigrants, not Ticketing Speeders Fri, 16 Jul 2010 18:58:26 +0000 aarti shahani Arizona is reversing on highway safety. At midnight, speed cameras on the state’s freeways went off, the Arizona Republic reports.

We all hate these cameras when we get caught. But we know why they’re there. Just drive up the state’s many gorgeous and winding mountains. Cars break the 75-mile per hour limit – even to turn a curve, or when passing by a construction site.

The National Transportation Safety Board, the bodyguard of America’s transit, has pointed out for decades that high speeds can result in death. Shocker. Here’s one of many studies, in case you want details.

The Daily Show’s Olivia Munn just did a hysterical interview with AZ State Rep Carl Seel about it. He supports SB 1070. (For anyone who hasn’t read the news this year, that’s the controversial law requiring police to arrest anyone who they suspect doesn’t have immigration papers.)

But Seel draws the line with speed cameras. They are the eyes of Big Brother, invading our privacy.

Munn crinkled her brow, “So speeding is probable cause to check immigration status. But speeding is not probable cause to give you a ticket for…speeding?”


Arizona’s hurting for money, so it can’t afford to put cops on the highways to replace the cameras. Hopefully it can afford the stationary that officers use to write up accidents after people have gotten hurt.

]]> 1
NTSB: Other boats heard the Duck boat on the radio Mon, 12 Jul 2010 22:34:06 +0000 ariel zirulnick Other boats in the area heard the radio calls from the duck boat run over by a barge last week, NTSB said in a statement released Monday.

In interviews with NTSB on Friday, the duck boat master said he tried to tell the tow boat guiding the barge to change course, but there was no response.

The fact that others in the area heard his call, which he said he made when the barge was 400 yards away, indicates that the fault more likely lies with the tow boat’s equipment or crew.

The duck boat had shut off its engine and set anchor because it was having engine problems.

When the barge hit the duck boat, the duck boat quickly sank. Two of the passengers were fatally injured. The other thirty-five people on board survived.

The two who died were Hungarian students, 16-year-old Dora Schwendtner and 20-year-old Szabolcs Prem. They were in the U.S. for an faith-based exchange program.

]]> 0
NTSB releases information from interviews with duck boat crew Sat, 10 Jul 2010 06:10:31 +0000 ariel zirulnick The senior crew of the duck boat that sank on the Delaware River Wednesday told NTSB officials that everything was in working order when he inspected the boat before the fatal trip.

At a press conference Friday night, NTSB board memebr Robert Sumwalt said the master of the boat, a 58-year-old man with the duck boat company for three seasons, told NTSB he found no irregularities during his routine pre-trip inspection.

But the two marine communication tools on board — an airhorn and a VHF radio — were both unsuccessful at catching the attention of the tug boat pushing the barge that collided with the duck boat.

The airhorn didn’t work, although the master said it did when he checked it before the trip. It’s unclear whether the VHF transmitted the message properly since there was no response.

The master said he tried to hail the tug boat operator on a channel meant for boat-to-boat communication. The Coast Guard does not monitor that station.

The master and deckhand told NTSB that after they turned around to head back to the dock, they noticed smoke coming out of the engine. The master described it as “white” and “acrid” smoke, while the deckhand described the smell as similar to “burning rubber.”

The deckhand checked the engine out. There were no flames,  but the master turned off the engine just in case and notified the duck boat dispatcher that they had stopped.

The boat was stopped for five to 10 minutes before the collision with the barge. In that time, another duck boat came by and offered help, but the master or deckhand declined, Sumwalt said.

The master said that when the barge was about 400 yards away, he tried to reach the tug boat operator over the radio and requested that it change course. He said he didn’t receive a response.

It was around that time that either the master or the deckhand told passengers to put on life jackets.

They also interviewed 16 duck boat passengers Friday. Their testimonies were mostly consistent with each others’ accounts and the accounts of the deckhand and master.

“Our investigation at this point is right where it should be. We’ve only been on the ground here for two full days,” Sumwalt said, an answer to the unasked question of why more definitive information couldn’t be made available.

Tomorrow NTSB will interview the five tugboat crew members.

“Our job is to find out what happened. Our goal is to prevent it from ever happening again. It’s a true tragedy of untold proportions,” Sumwalt said.

]]> 2
Photos of Philadephia boat accident site — July 9 Sat, 10 Jul 2010 04:17:04 +0000 ariel zirulnick Below is a selection of photos from the site of Wednesday’s boat accident in Philadelphia that left two dead. A barge ran over a duck boat that was stopped in the Delaware River because of engine trouble. The boat quickly sank, sending all 37 passengers into the water. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident. (Photo credit: Ariel Zirulnick)

A U.S. Coast Guard boat circles the site of the accident shortly after 8 a.m. Friday. The boat sank in the Delaware River, only a couple hundred yards off of Penn’s Landing. The river is a busy site for both recreational and commercial use and large freighters like the one in the background are common. The channel is relatively narrow at this point in the river. There isn’t much room for boats to move around.

The salvage company’s barge, being pushed by a tug boat, arrives at the site of the accident. Weeks Marine, the salvage company selected, also salvaged the plane that crashed into the Hudson River last year.

The Philadelphia Police Department’s marine unit makes an attempt to recover the body of one of the duck boat passengers. The strong current pulled his body underneath the barge and police were unable to retrieve it until the barge left at the end of the day. One of the police officers in dry suits later attempted to swim under the barge and retrieve the body.

The duck boat, here being lifted by a crane on the salvage company barge and held by straps that were pulled underneath the hull, broke the surface of the river around 1:30 p.m. Salvaging attempts began at 8:15 a.m.

By the afternoon, dozens of bystanders had gathered at Penn’s Landing to watch the recovery efforts. Person after person expressed shock at the accident.

The duck boat is loaded onto the salvaging barge. It broke the surface around 1:30 p.m., but was not secured on the barge until about 2:50 p.m. A significant amount of water had to be drained from the hull, according to police officers at the scene.

Officials gather at Penn’s Landing to watch recovery efforts Friday afternoon around 2:30 p.m. From left: NTSB public information officer Keith Holloway, board member Dr. Mark Rosekind, board member Robert Sumwalt, a member of the NTSB investigative staff and two officers from the Philadelphia Police Department.

When the salvaging barge left the site around 3 p.m., the trapped body of 20-year-old Szabolcs Prem, one of the duck boat passengers, came up to the surface and began drifting downstream. Bystanders were the first to notice the body, which police are pictured here retrieving. The other deceased passenger, 16-year-old Dora Schwendtner, was found near the Walt Whitman bridge at 4:45 a.m. by a local fisherman.

]]> 2
Bodies of two missing passengers recovered, boat brought to surfact Fri, 09 Jul 2010 21:32:48 +0000 ariel zirulnick Philadelphia — It took more than two days, but the wreckage from Wednesday’s duck boat accident and the bodies of two passengers are now recovered.

A salvage company brought the boat out of the water at about 2:45 p.m. and loaded it onto the company’s barge. The company will bring the boat to shore for closer inspection.

From Penn’s Landing,  200 yards from the accident site, the only sign of damage visible was a crushed canopy, but there could be more damage to the side of the boat that couldn’t be seen.

One passenger, 16-year-old Dora Schwendtner, was found at 4:45 a.m. downriver from the accident site. A fisherman found her near the Walt Whitman Bridge on his way out for the day, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The body of the other, 20-year-old Szablcs Prem, was recovered by the Philadelphia Police Department’s marine unit at about 3:10 p.m. It was first spotted around 9 a.m., before his body drifted underneath the salvage company’s barge. The current was too strong for the police to recover the body until after the barge moved.

Both were Hungarian citizens visiting the United States on a church program, the Inquirer reported.

Although the Philadelphia Police Department’s work is almost done, NTSB still has much ahead of it. Board members Robert Sumwalt and newly-approved Dr. Mark Rosekind came to Penn’s Landing around 2:30 p.m. Friday to watch recovery action.

NTSB Lead investigator Tom Roth-rothy spent much of the day onboard a local Coast Guard boat, observing recovery efforts.

Rosekind and Sumwalt spent much of the time in serious talk with local police and Coast Guard officials and were there when the second body was recovered.

NTSB declined to comment until tonight’s press conference at 8 p.m., where they will discuss findings from today’s investigations.

Check back later tonight for a series of photos from today’s work.

]]> 0
NTSB investigation underway, Coast Guard calls off search Fri, 09 Jul 2010 04:49:07 +0000 ariel zirulnick Philadelphia — The National Transportation Safety Board held a press conference Thursday afternoon to explain its investigation procedures for Wednesday’s potentially fatal boat accident.

But board member Robert Sumwalt, the only one to speak at the press conference, spent more time telling local media that NTSB still has few answers and it will be a long time before some of their most pressing questions are answered.

Thirty-seven people were thrown into the Delaware River Wednesday afternoon when a barge collided with the amphibious duck boat they were on. Thirty-five people were immediately rescued.

The U.S. Coast Guard suspended the search for the two missing people on Thursday night.

When a television reporter asked Sumwalt what he thought about tourists getting mixed up in an accident involving the industry side of the marine sector, Sumwalt’s only response was “It’s tragic.”

At the time of the collision, the duck boat was at a halt on the river, waiting for assistance after a reported engine fire disabled the engine. A tugboat was pulling the barge.

NTSB is taking the lead on the investigation and questions are being deferred to board member Robert Sumwalt and lead investigator Tom Roth-rothy, who are in Philadelphia supervising the investigation team.

Sumwalt said that NTSB expects to have investigators on the scene for seven to 10 days total, meaning they could depart as early as the end of next week.

Investigators will take all of the data and information collected and bring it back to Washington, D.C., where NTSB is headquartered. It will likely take several months to put all the pieces together and determine everything that went wrong Wednesday afternoon.

While on the scene, investigators will be gathering all kinds of information and data on the actual boats involved, their operating procedures, their crew members and their emergency preparedness and response. That will come form actual inspections of the boats, records and equipment and extensive interviews with passengers, crew and first responders and rescuers.

For local coverage of the accident, you can check out the Philadelphia Daily News and Philadelphia Inquirer at Thursday’s main story on the accident focuses on confusion about why the tug boat was unaware of the duck boat’s presence.

Keep checking back for more updates and some photos of the accident site. Contact reporter Ariel Zirulnick at if you have any leads.

]]> 0
Barge sinks tour boat in Philadelphia, 2 passengers missing Thu, 08 Jul 2010 18:38:01 +0000 ariel zirulnick The Delaware River is a busy site for both tourism and shipping, a fatal combination on Wednesday. An amphibious tour boat — a boat that can travel on land and water — was struck by a barge while stopped in a shipping channel.The Duck boat, as they’re commonly called, capsized and sank.

Thirty-five of the 37 people on board were rescued. Two are still unaccounted for. The Duck boat is at the bottom of the Delaware River.

The Duck boat was stopped in the shipping channel because of an engine fire that prompted the crew to cease operations, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. They were waiting for a rescue boat to come get them.

The National Transportation Safety Board has launched an investigation into the accident. Board member Robert Sumwalt will be on the scene, holding regular press conferences.

Keep checking back on the blog for more information as it becomes available and follow reporter Ariel Zirulnick on Twitter at @ariel_news21. If you know anything about this accident or know people who were involved, please contact her at

]]> 0
Accident in 2003 made Staten Island ferry shape up Thu, 08 Jul 2010 18:25:45 +0000 ariel zirulnick STATEN ISLAND AND MANHATTAN — The Staten Island ferry moves 65,000 people between Staten Island and Manhattan every weekday, and it does so with practiced efficiency and predictability. It follows a regimented routine for every aspect of its operation.

But it wasn’t always that way. Before a 2003 accident on the Andrew J. Barberi ferry that left 11 dead and 70 injured, the Staten Island ferry’s operations and safety practices left much to be desired, said some regular commuters.

Since that accident, when the person piloting the boat passed out and allowed the boat to ram a maintenance pier on Staten Island, many improvements have been made.

Today there are more crew making rounds on the boat, loudspeaker announcements are regular and clear and inspection officials regularly make appearances, said Tami Kelly, a Staten Island resident who has used the ferry to commute to her job in Manhattan for 15 years.

Without that accident, many unsafe practices, such as a lack of barriers preventing people from falling overboard or an allowance of smoking onboard, might never have changed, said Norman Serafin, a Staten Island resident who has been riding the ferry to work since 1983.

Although the accident highlighted many safety failings in the system, it didn’t cause Staten Islanders to have second thoughts about using one of their most important modes of transportation.

“If you live on Staten Island, this is what you do,” Kelly said. “It’s part of our DNA.”

The 2003 accident spurred the National Transportation Safety Board to make a recommendation that passenger ferries implement a safety management system, which is essentially a checklist of safety and operational items that must be in order for a boat to run safely.

That recommendation was added to the Most Wanted List in February.

Check back later this month for a closer look at what safety management systems could accomplish for the marine industry.

]]> 0
FMCSA battling rumors, resistance from industry as it gradually unveils new safety compliance system Wed, 07 Jul 2010 01:31:22 +0000 ryan For the past five years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been working on a new safety initiative called CSA 2010, as well as a new safety compliance system, the Safety Management System (Safety Management System). The initiative is still very much a work in progress, and will not meet the agency’s original goal of being fully implemented by the end of this year.

Out on the road, and at truck stops, rumors run rampant that the new system will take a lot of truckers off the road. At a recent Commercial Vehicle Safety Administration (CVSA) Road Check in Flagstaff, Arizona, truckers said they heard “hundreds of thousands” of truckers will be taken off the road because of the new system. Tim Crain, an owner-operator from Roadhouse, Illinois, said he has heard rumors the new system will include measurements for neck size that can result in a mandatory sleep apnea test. “The way I look at it, all that stuff affects me,” Crain said. However, he said there are so many rumors about what the system may or may not include, that “some (rumors) I don’t believe till they’re here.”

At the Great West Truck Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, William Bensmiller, an FMCSA deputy administrator for the state of Nevada, gave talks where he went through the basics of CSA 2010 to a crowd of truckers. Bensmiller said he’s been spending much of the year talking to “anybody impacted” – trucking associations, individual carriers and truckers themselves around the state. He said those that follow the rules will be the least impacted by the new system. “For the good drivers, they’re history will reflect that,” he said.

At the end of June, FMCSA administrator Anne Ferro was part of a panel that testified about CSA 2010 in front of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Joining Ferro on the panel were Steve Keppler of the CVSA, Keith Klein of Transport Corporation of America (which was representing the American Trucking Associations) and Todd Spencer of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

Ferro stated that one of the main goals for the FMCSA is that it must “remove high-risk operators from our roads and highways.” She stated how CSA 2010 will improve the compliance review process, the FMCSA’s main way of inspecting companies that employ commercial drivers, by moving to a more “performance-based approach. ”

Aspects of a new “performance-based approach” were what Klein, representing ATA, took issue with. He brought up statistics of the trucking industry’s “impressive safety record,” including that the “truck-involved fatality rate has decreased 66 percent since 1975.” One of ATA’s main concerns, Klein said, was that the new system will consider “all (Department of Transportation) defined crashes – including those for which the motor carrier could not reasonably be held accountable.” He showed a video to illustrate his point, where a passenger vehicle cut off a truck and crashed into it, causing the truck to break over the median and into oncoming traffic. Under questioning from chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), Ferro said much of the system is still “under review.”

]]> 0
FAA issues new runway safety rule to prevent runway collisions Thu, 01 Jul 2010 17:31:20 +0000 richie duchon As of this week, pilots will need specific clearance from an air traffic controller for every runway he or she crosses when taxiing to take off or heading back to the airport after landing. The rule change is likely to satisfy a 10-year-old NTSB ‘Most Wanted List’ recommendation to prevent runway incursions and improve runway safety.

The U.S. saw an average of 13 potentially catastrophic runway accidents per year from 2000-2009. That period coincided with an era of reduced flights after 9/11 and during the recession. Traffic is now expected to pick up over the next decade with an estimated 3 percent more flights annually.

“By being alert to this [new rule], [pilots] are much less likely to have a problem,” Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Foundation President Bruce Landsberg said in a video posted at AOPA. Here’s Landsberg on the new rules and runway incursions in general:

The two reasons pilots have problems with runway incursions is either because they’re complacent. They’ve done it many many times – we are creatures of habit – or they’re distracted…

You have to say, “My job, right now, 100 percent is getting where the airplane where it is now now to wherever it is I’m going, either on the outbound leg or the inbound leg…”

Many of the areas where we have incursions, they don’t just happen to new pilots. They happen to very experienced pilots. Because

]]> 0