An accident involving a massive passenger ship, such as the 2003 Staten Island Ferry crash, presents a practical and legal conundrum not associated with other mass transit disasters, such as airplane wrecks or train derailments.

Namely, after the Andrew J. Barberi crashed into a concrete pier on Staten Island on Oct. 15, 2003, officials had no passenger manifest, no record of how many people were aboard the 6,000-passenger vessel, let alone the names of the approximately 1,500 passengers who were on that afternoon’s 3:30 ferry.

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