Pilot Incarcerated for 2003 New York City Ferry Crash Released After Serving 15-Month Sentence

The former Staten Island ferry pilot who blacked out at the helm before a deadly 2003 crash has been released from prison, having served a 15-month sentence.

Assistant Capt. Richard Smith, 58, walked out of Devens Federal Medical center in Ayer, Mass., on Tuesday and boarded a flight at Logan International Airport in Boston to New York, where he was reunited with his wife and loved ones.

"If I could say anything to take away the victims' pain, I would," Smith said shortly after leaving prison. "But there's nothing to say."

In what is considered the worst mass transit disaster in New York's history, Smith was piloting the Staten Island ferry in October 2003 when he passed out, suffering from fatigue and on painkillers. The ferry drifted out of control and crashed into a pier, killing 11 people and leaving dozens maimed and injured.

"Every time I think about it, I feel sick," Smith said.

After the accident, Smith fled the scene and tried to kill himself. He pleaded guilty in 2004 to negligent manslaughter and to lying to authorities about his medical history.