2016-09-30 / World / National

1 dead, 74 hospitalized in NJ train crash

By DAVID PORTER
Associated Press


A woman is wheeled away from the Hoboken Terminal train station on a stretcher Thursday after a New Jersey Transit commuter train from New York barreled into the station during the morning rush hour. 
AP WIREPHOTO A woman is wheeled away from the Hoboken Terminal train station on a stretcher Thursday after a New Jersey Transit commuter train from New York barreled into the station during the morning rush hour. AP WIREPHOTO HOBOKEN, N.J. — A rush-hour commuter train crashed through a barrier at the busy Hoboken station and lurched across the waiting area Thursday morning, killing one person and injuring more than 100 others in a tangle of broken concrete, twisted metal and dangling cables, authorities said.

People pulled concrete off bleeding victims, and passengers kicked out windows and crawled to safety amid crying and screaming after the arriving New Jersey Transit train ran off the end of its track. It apparently knocked out pillars as it ground to a halt in the covered waiting area, collapsing a section of the roof onto the first car.

“All of a sudden, there was an abrupt stop and a big jolt that threw people out of their seats. The lights went out, and we heard a loud crashing noise – like an explosion – that turned out to be the roof of the terminal,” said Ross Bauer, who was sitting in the third or fourth car when the train was pulling into the historic 109-year-old station for its final stop.

“I heard panicked screams, and everyone was stunned.”

Gov. Chris Christie said a woman standing on the platform was killed by debris. A total of 108 others were injured, mostly on the train, Christie said; 74 were hospitalized.

“The train came in at much too high rate of speed, and the question is: ‘Why is that?’” Christie said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said investigators will determine whether the explanation was an equipment failure, an incapacitated engineer, or something else.

Christie said the engineer was in critical condition but cooperating with investigators.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent investigators. Among other things, they will want to know what the operator was doing before the crash and whether the person was distracted, said Bob Chipkevich, who formerly headed the NTSB train crash investigations section.

None of NJ Transit’s trains are fully equipped with positive train control, a safety system designed to prevent accidents by automatically slowing or stopping trains that are going too fast. The industry is under government orders to install PTC, but the deadline has been repeatedly extended by regulators at the request of the railroads. The deadline is now the end of 2018.

“While we are just beginning to learn the cause of this crash, it appears that once again an accident was not prevented because the trains our commuters were riding lacked positive train control,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, DN. Y. “The longer we fail to prioritize investing in rail safety technology, the more innocent lives we put in jeopardy.”

But both Cuomo and Christie said that it is too soon to say whether such technology would have made a difference in this crash.

The Hoboken Terminal, which handles more than 50,000 train and bus riders daily, is just across the Hudson River from New York City. It is the final stop for several train lines and a transfer point for many commuters on their way to New York. Many take ferries or PATH commuter trains across the river to the city.

NJ Transit service was suspended in and out of Hoboken, all but assuring a difficult trip home for commuters. Christie said engineers were examining the station’s structural integrity, and it was too soon to say when it might reopen to NJ Transit trains.

William Blaine, an engineer for a company that runs freight trains, was inside the station when the train crashed and ran over to help. He walked over to the heavily damaged first car with a transit employee to check on the train’s engineer and said he found him slumped over the controls.

The train had left Spring Valley, New York, at 7:23 a.m. and crashed at 8:45 a.m., authorities said. NJ Transit spokeswoman Jennifer Nelson said she didn’t know how fast the train was going when it crashed through the concrete and-steel bumper at the end of the line.

Jamie Weatherhead- Saul, who was standing at a door between the first and second cars, said the train didn’t slow down as it entered the station. She said the impact hurled passengers against her. One woman got her leg caught between the doors before fellow riders managed to pull her up, Weatherhead- Saul said.

Passenger Bhagyesh Shah said the train was crowded, particularly the first two cars, because they make for an easy exit into the Hoboken station. Passengers in the second car broke the emergency windows to get out.

“I saw a woman pinned under concrete,” Shah told WNBC-TV in New York. “A lot of people were bleeding; one guy was crying.”

Brian Klein, whose train arrived at the station after the crash, told The Wall Street Journal that transit police ushered everyone aboard his train into a waiting room, “then quickly started yelling, ‘Just get out! We don’t know if the building is going to hold.’”

More than 100,000 people use NJ Transit trains to commute from New Jersey into New York City daily.

A crash at the same station on a PATH commuter train injured more than 30 people in 2011. The train crashed into bumpers at the end of the tracks on a Sunday morning.

The Hoboken Terminal was built in 1907, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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