New York train crash leaves four dead and 63 injured

Train, headed south to Manhattan’s Grand Central terminal, was about half full at the time of the crash

Sun, Dec 1, 2013, 20:34

A suburban New York train derailed earlier today, killing at least four people and injuring 63, including 11 critically, when all seven cars of a Metro-North train ran off the tracks on a curved section of the line, officials said.

The crash happened at 7.20am local time about 90 metres north of Metro North’s Spuyten Duyvil station in the city’s Bronx borough, said Metro North spokesman Aaron Donovan.

A fire department spokesman confirmed the number of dead and said 11 people were in critical condition, six were in serious condition with non-life threatening injuries and another 46 suffered minor injuries.

Train half full
The train, headed south toward Manhattan’s Grand Central terminal, was about half full at the time of the crash with about 150 passengers, said the state’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), parent company of Metro North.

“On a work day, fully occupied, it would have been a tremendous disaster,” said New York City fire commissioner Salvatore Joseph Cassano.

At least one rail car was lying toppled near the water in an area where the Hudson and Harlem rivers meet. Other cars were lying on their sides.

There was no official word yet on possible causes of the accident.

Passenger Frank Tatulli told television station WABC he had been in the first car and that the train had been travelling “a lot faster” than usual.

“The guy was going real fast on the turns and I just didn’t know why because we were making good time. And all of a sudden we derailed on the turn,” he said.

Joseph Bruno, who heads the city’s office of emergency management, told CNN it appeared that three of the four people killed had been ejected from the train. The MTA and the fire department both said that could not immediately be confirmed.

Michael Keaveney (22), a security worker whose home overlooks the site, said he had heard a loud bang when the train derailed. “It woke me up from my sleep,” he said. “It looked like [the train] took out a lot of trees on its way over toward the water.”

New York police department divers were seen in the water near the accident, and dozens of firefighters were helping pull people from the wreckage. None of the passengers were in the water, according to Marjorie Anders of Metro-North.

The derailment was the latest in a string of problems this year for Metro North, the second busiest US commuter railroad in terms of monthly travellers. In July, 10 cars of a CSX freight train carrying trash derailed in the same area, Ms Anders said.

Black day
In May, a Metro North passenger train struck a commuter train between Fairfield and Bridgeport, Connecticut, injuring more than 70 people and halting service on the line.

The MTA said today’s accident marked the first customer fatality in Metro North’s three-decade history and that it was a “black day” for the company.

After touring the scene, New York governor Andrew Cuomo said officials from the National Transportation Safety Board had been sent to the scene and would investigate thoroughly.

“We think everybody is accounted for, we’ve gone over the site a number of times,” Mr Cuomo said.

Those injured were transported to area hospitals, said New York City fire department spokesman Michael Parrella. A centre for passengers’ family members was set up at JFK High School in the Bronx.

US president Barack Obama was briefed on the accident and a White House official said the president’s thoughts and prayers were with the friends and families of those involved.

The train was a diesel with seven cars. The locomotive was on the north end pushing the cars southward. – (Reuters)