Metro-North Train Derails Killing Four and Injuring 63

December 1, 2013 Updated: December 2, 2013

NEW YORK—A Metro-North train derailed on a curve just north of Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx Sunday morning, jammed into a snakelike shape, and ground to a halt just inches from the Hudson River, killing at least four passengers and injuring 63.

Four cars pummeled the dirt and brush south of the tracks, traveling dozens of feet—the first landing right at the water’s edge. Dirt and rocks blasted into the passenger compartments through broken windows, and two of the cars flipped on their sides, ejecting passengers, according to firsthand accounts. The remaining three cars and the locomotive also derailed.

Joel Zaritsky was dozing as he traveled to a dental convention aboard the train. He woke up to feel his car overturning several times.

“Then I saw the gravel coming at me, and I heard people screaming,” he told The Associated Press, holding his bloody right hand. “There was smoke everywhere and debris. People were thrown to the other side of the train.”

The first report came from the train operator at 7:20 a.m., officials said. Within minutes, dozens of emergency crews arrived and carried passengers away on stretchers, some wearing neck braces. Others, bloodied and scratched, held ice packs to their heads. Firefighters shattered windows of the toppled train cars in order to quickly reach passengers.

Eleven of the injuries were critical and six were serious. The injured were taken to several nearby hospitals.

The Manhattan-bound train carried between 100 and 200 people, according to officials, a smaller number compared to a weekday commute. The train was about half-full at the time of the crash, rail officials said. The affected line, called the Hudson line, carries about 18,000 people on an average weekday morning.

Three of the four people killed were ejected from the train’s windows, officials said. Workers used inflatable bags to lift the train cars and remove the bodies. The fourth victim was found inside one of the two cars that ended up on their sides.

Divers searched the river nearby for victims who may have also been ejected. Police officers aided by search dogs, combed the area nearby.

“It is most unfortunate for this to come during the holiday season. It reminds us that life is a precious gift,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters at the scene.

Area residents describe a screeching noise followed minutes later by a stream of sirens and later helicopters. Mike Gallo, a local resident, was walking his pit bull when he heard sirens. He looked down at the tracks and “knew it was a tragedy right away. I saw injured people climbing out of the train.”

“It was horrific,” Gallo said. “It’s a dangerous curve here.”

Finding the Cause

Personnel from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) arrived on the scene at 12:30 p.m. Federal investigators will examine the condition of the tracks and signals, check the mechanical systems on the train, determine the speed at which the train approached the curve, and interview crew and passengers, NTSB officials told a reporter on the scene.

The speed limit on the waterside curve is 30 mph, compared with 70 mph in the area before the curve, NTSB representative Earl Weener told reporters on the scene. Officials said that the speed of the train has not yet been determined. NTSB investigators downloaded the data from the train’s black box and will examine it in the coming days.

Once the NTSB investigation is complete, the site will be handed over to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which runs the Metro-North, for repairs. NTSB expects to be on the scene for 7–10 days.

Cuomo advised people who use the line to expect a long commute Monday and to use the Harlem Line instead.

Year of Accidents

Sunday’s accident was the latest in a troubled year for the nation’s second-biggest commuter railroad, which had never experienced a passenger death in an accident in its 31-year history.

It is the second passenger train derailment in six months for the rail service and presents Metro-North with another problem in a year plagued by safety issues.

On May 17, an eastbound train derailed in Bridgeport, Conn., and was struck by a westbound train. The crash injured 73 passengers, two engineers, and a conductor. Eleven days later, track foreman Robert Luden was struck and killed by a train in West Haven, Conn.

Earlier this month, Metro-North’s chief engineer, Robert Puciloski, told members of the NTSB investigating the May derailment and Luden’s death that the railroad is “behind in several areas,” including a five-year schedule of cyclical maintenance that had not been conducted in the area of the Bridgeport derailment since 2005.

The NTSB issued an urgent recommendation to Metro-North that it use “redundant protection” such as a procedure known as “shunting” in which crews attach a device to the rail in a work zone alerting the dispatcher to inform approaching trains to stop.

Epoch Times staff members Kristina Skorbach and Kristen Meriwether, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

———–

The four who died in Sunday’s accident, as identified by MTA police:

James M. Ferrari, 59, of Montrose, N.Y.
Ahn Kisook, 35, of Queens, N.Y.
James G. Lovell, 58, of Cold Spring, N.Y.
Donna L. Smith, 54, of Newburgh, N.Y.

Follow Ivan on Twitter: @ivanpentchoukov
RECOMMENDED