Deadly New York City train derailment probe begins

Written by PTI | New York | Updated: Dec 3 2013, 02:42am hrs
TrainAuthorities are investigating the cause of a major train derailment near New York City in which four persons were killed and over 60 injured, as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said safety remains the top priority and lessons need to be learnt from the "very tragic situation."
Authorities are investigating the cause of a major train derailment near New York City in which four persons were killed and over 60 injured, asNew York Governor Andrew Cuomo said safety remains the top priority and lessons need to be learnt from the "very tragic situation."

The early morning Metro-North train from Poughkeepsie bound for Grand Central in Manhattan derailed yesterday while rounding a bend just north of the SpuytenDuyvil station.

Four cars on the seven-car train turned on their side, throwing unsuspecting passengers into the air.

The four persons killed in the accident have been identified as James Ferrari, 59, of Montrose, New York, Kisook Ahn, 35, of Woodside, Queens; Jim Lovell, 58,of Cold Spring, New York and Donna Smith, 54, of Newburgh, New York.

The injured passengers were taken to a number of local hospitals. Of the 63 people injured, 11were in critical condition.

Describing the derailment as a "very tragic situation," Cuomo visited the accident site and said the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) had launcheda probe into the crash and ordered its officials to inspect the overturned cars and retrieve the black box that would provide vital clues about the speed ofthe train, any possible mechanical issues and whether the brakes were working fine.

"The Metropolitan Transportation Authority wants to learn what happened with the accident, if there is a lesson to be learnt because safety is job one. We wantto see trains perform and perform on time but safety is job one," Cuomo told reporters.

He said once the NTSB completes the investigation, the accident site would be turned over to the MTA for commencing repair work.

The train had about 120 passengers on board and was not scheduled to stop at the Spuyten Duyvil station.

It derailed in a wooded area where the Hudson andHarlem rivers meet and footage from the crash site showed that onerail car was lying toppled near the edge of the water.

"On a work day, fully occupied, it would have been a tremendous disaster," New York City Fire Commissioner Salvatore Joseph Cassano told reporters.

Cuomo said the track area is "dangerous just by design" and trains are going about 70 miles per hour coming down the straight part of the track.

The investigation at the accident site, which could last for about 7-10 days and focus on track conditions, signalling systems, mechanical equipment, isexpected to cause problems and delays for thousands of commuters who live in the suburbs of New York and take the train to Grand Central daily for work in New YorkCity.

The train ride to New York City varies from one to two hours and is a preferred mode of public transportation for those who do not want to drive the longdistance to work.

MTA said its Hudson Line service has been suspended between Tarrytown and Grand Central station, and bus service is being provided between White Plains andTarrytown.

"People who do not have to travel are urged to telecommute. People should expect crowded trains," the agency said.

As rescue teams and firefighters began their search operations and pulled out people from the train wreckage, cranes and other special heavy equipment werepositioned to remove the rail cars from the area to facilitate repair work.

"Metro-North is cooperating fully with that investigation. With NTSB approval, Metro-North workers will begin clearing the cars, using cranes and heavyequipment," it added.

Several of the passengers were asleep when the train derailed and later described a scene of chaos as the cars overturned and debris and broken glass flewaround.

Passenger Frank Tatulli told television station WABC he had been riding in the first car and 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.

A passenger on the train, Frank Tatulli, told Eyewitness News that the train was travelling at a speed higher than normal.

Tatulli said he got out of the trainon his own, and suffered head and neck injuries.

Another passenger said he was asleep on the train and woke up when the car "started rolling several times. Then I saw the gravel coming at me, and Iheard people screaming.

There was smoke everywhere and debris. People were thrown to the other side of the train."

The Sunday incident is the latest in a string of problems this year for Metro-North, which is the second busiest US commuter railroad.

In July, 10 cars of afreight train carrying trash derailed near the same area.

In May, a Metro-North passenger train struck a commuter train near Connecticut, injuring more than 70 people.