Story Summary

Train Derails In New York, Killing 4, Injuring More Than 60

derailNEW YORK — Four people died and 63 were injured when all seven cars of a Metro-North train ran off the tracks on a sharp curve at 7:20 a.m. Sunday about 100 yards north of the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx.

A New York fire department spokesman confirmed the number of dead and said 11 people had been sent to the hospital in critical condition and six in serious condition.

To check on possible Metro-North schedule changes because of the derailment investigation, click here to visit the MTA website.

Story Timeline
Previous Next
This story has 8 updates

Metro-North President Howard Permut is expected to retire by the end of this month, as the company faces federal pressure to ramp up its safety systems after a deadly train crash in December, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

Permut who has served as president of the Metro-North’ Commuter Railroad since 2008, will be succeeded by Joseph Giulietti, the executive director of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, the Journal said, citing officials familiar with the matter.

Metro-North could not be reached for comment.

Last month, federal regulators launched a 60-day safety assessment of Metro-North, operator of the train that derailed on Dec. 1 as it entered a sharp curve in the Bronx borough, killing four people and injuring 70 others.

The December train derailment was the latest in a string of problems last year for Metro-North, the second busiest U.S. commuter railroad in terms of monthly ridership.

The accident marked the first customer fatality in Metro-North’s three-decade history and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates Metro-North, called it a “black day” for the railroad.

The twisted mess of steel wreckage was cleared from the rails Monday, but serious questions remain, a day after four died and 67 were injured in a Metro-North crash in New York.

 

“Riders deserve answers, so do the public,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal Monday after visiting the site.

 

The biggest question by Monday evening is why the seven-car train was going 82 mph before hurtling off the tracks at the turn, when it was supposed to be going just 30 mph.

 

It’s still unclear whether equipment failure or operator error was to blame.

 

Sen. Blumenthal called his visit to the site “bone chilling” but turned his attention toward the National Transportation Safety Board, calling for quick answers, citing the importance of the Metro-North Line to the region’s businesses.

 

“We will lose jobs and economic growth if we fail to guarantee safety and reliability,” said Sen. Blumenthal.

 

Other leaders spoke Monday after seeing the wreckage.

 

“It’s not about the turn. Something else had to happen, and we want to find out what it is,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

 

The train’s engineer says he applied the brakes but the train didn’t slow down.

 

The NTSB does know the speed, position and brake application of the train, but exact details remain under investigation.

 

“We don’t know whether the brakes went to zero pressure because of a valve change or because of train breakup,” said NTSB representative Earl Weener.

 

A lot should come to light when the NTSB finishes investigating the engineer’s phone.

 

But for now, the families of the victims and thousands of everyday riders are left waiting to learn how such a deadly disaster could occur.

Twenty four hours after a Metro North train derailed in the New York City borough of the Bronx, large cranes were brought in to begin lifting the overturned rail cars.

4 passengers were killed and dozens more were injured after a Hudson Line train travelling from Poughkeepsie, New York to Grand Central Station left its tracks.

Chilling accounts are emerging from passengers. Peter Stillman recalled, “I heard a lot of crunching and grinding, and I started seeing stars in front of my eyes, and I thought, ‘My goodness! Is this the end?”

During day 2 of the investigation, a second black box recorder was found and sent to Washington, D. C.

National Transportation and Safety Board member Earl Weener explained, “the data from the boxes will at least give us some insight into what was going on at the time.”

By Alexandra Field. Holly Yan and Catherine E. Shoichet

CNN

NEW YORK (CNN) — The commuter train involved in a deadly weekend derailment in the Bronx was doing 82 mph as it entered the 30-mph curve where it jumped the tracks, federal safety officials said Monday.

The National Transportation Safety Board reported that figure based on preliminary data from the event recorders taken from the locomotive and another car, NTSB member Earl Weener told reporters. The data showed the engineer cut the throttle six seconds before the locomotive came to rest and applied the brakes five seconds before, a move Weener said came “very late in the game.”

Four people died in the Sunday morning crash on New York’s Metro-North commuter line, about 10 miles north of Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal. At least 67 more were hurt.

The recorded speed is not only far faster than the rated speed for the curve where the derailment occurred, it’s faster than the 70 mph posted for the section of track that led into the curve, Weener said.

The engineer, William Rockefeller, and the rest of the train crew were still being questioned Monday afternoon, and the cause of the derailment has not yet been determined, Weener said.

“This is raw data off the event recorders, so it tells us what happened. It doesn’t tell us why it happened,” Weener said.

Despite the high speed, surviving passenger Amanda Swanson said she felt the wreck in slow motion.

All seven passenger cars jumped the tracks, the windows of the coaches broke out and then, “gravel came flying up in our faces,” said Swanson, 26.

“I really didn’t know if I would survive,” she said. “The train felt like it was on its side and dragging for a long time.”

Swanson, a waitress on her way to work at a Midtown Manhattan restaurant, put her bag in front of her face to block the rubble as the car she was riding in flipped over and skidded to a stop with a thud.

“I couldn’t see anything,” she told CNN’s “New Day.” “It was just smoke.”

As the dust settled, she saw fellow passengers staggering out of the train and heard them moaning for help.

“I just closed my eyes and kind of hoped to God that I was going to be able to call my mom with decent news,” she said. Swanson managed to get off the train carrying her cell phone, its screen shattered but still working.

Workers began lifting the rail cars back onto the tracks Monday. Police cadaver dogs made a final sweep of the scene. Doctors treated wounded victims. And federal investigators combed the wreckage, searching for the answer to a key question: What caused the deadly derailment?

Beth Barret, who sent photos to CNN’s iReport, called the scene “very surreal and very scary.”

“It was a scene straight out of a sci-fi movie,” Barret said.

A dangerous turn

The recorders will answer important questions for investigators about how fast the train was traveling and whether its brakes were working, said Peter Goelz, a former managing director of the NTSB.

From there, he said, authorities will likely zero in on several questions: Was the train’s driver rested? Was he paying attention to his job? And did the equipment on the train function correctly?

Authorities also are looking for video that may have captured the derailment, safety board spokesman Keith Holloway said. Railroad officials have said there were no video cameras aboard the train. But if there’s security camera footage in the area, that could give clues to investigators, Holloway said.

It’s not the first time a train jumped the tracks on that turn. A freight train derailed in the same curve in July, damaging about 1,500 feet of track, the Metropolitan Transit Authority reported at the time.

Weener said the agency would look into whether there was any connection between that derailment and Sunday’s crash, but both he and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo discounted the possibility.

“The curve has been here for many, many years, right, and trains take the curve every day, 365 days a year … We’ve always had this configuration. We didn’t have accidents,” Cuomo said. “So there has to be another factor.”

Official: Engineer said brakes didn’t work

Rockefeller told investigators he applied the brakes, but the train didn’t slow down, according to a law enforcement official who was at the scene and is familiar with the investigation.

“That will be a key point of concern, whether this train was moving too quickly,” said Joe Bruno, New York’s commissioner of emergency management.

Mary Schiavo, a former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation, said investigators should take a close look at the sharp curve.

“It has been there forever, but the fact that we’ve had other accidents there means we have to look beyond just the fact that the train engineer said that brakes were not working,” she said. “We have to see if there’s additional issues concerning that track.”

Metro-North Railroad inspects its tracks twice a week, spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said. The most recent inspection found the track was “OK for normal operations.”

She said the train wasn’t equipped with positive train control — a high-tech system designed to slow down or stop trains to prevent crashes caused by human error.

Anders said the railroad conducted routine drug and alcohol tests on crew members but has not released the results.

Rockefeller appeared coherent at the scene, and there was no indication he was intoxicated, said a high-ranking law enforcement official who is part of the investigation.

The engineer could not be immediately reached for comment.

Anthony Bottalico, general chairman of the union that represents Rockefeller and the train’s conductors, said the crew members are also eager to find out what caused the crash and “make sure it doesn’t ever happen again.”

“Hopefully over the next day or two, there will be some kind of idea or closure,” he said.

The victims

The MTA identified those killed as Donna L. Smith, 54, of Newburgh, New York; James G. Lovell, 58, of Cold Spring, New York; James M. Ferrari, 59, of Montrose, New York; and Ahn Kisook, 35, of Queens, New York.

Lovell did freelance audio and was headed into New York to work Sunday morning, said Dave Merandy, a town council member in the Hudson Valley community of Philipstown.

“He loved his family and did what was necessary to keep things afloat with his family. He was a great man,” Merandy said.

At least 67 people were injured, Bruno said. One suffered a spinal cord injury that could leave him paralyzed from the neck down, said Dr. David Listman, director of the emergency department at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.

The man is the father of a 14-year-old boy who was released from the hospital Sunday.

“It’s hard to understand how they were sitting next to each other on the train, and the son walks away with minor bruises, and the father sustained such a severe injury,” Listman said.

While patients with severe fractures could be released from the hospital Monday, he said, they may require further treatment and mental health care after surviving the devastating accident.

“For a lot of these people, the train was their way of commuting to work. I think a lot of these people are going to have to contend with getting back to normal life,” he said. “I think that’s going to be very difficult for them.”

One of train’s assistant conductors has a broken collarbone, a head injury and bruises all over her body, Bottalico said.

The train’s conductor suffered a head injury, he said, but was scheduled to meet with investigators Monday.

Commuting delays

The Metro-North Hudson Line had a ridership of 15.9 million last year, with hundreds of people on packed trains during weekday rush hour, officials said.

The governor advised commuters in the area to plan for a long journey or use the Harlem Line, which runs roughly parallel to the damaged Hudson Line.

On Sunday, there were about 150 people on board when the train derailed.

Service was suspended on part of the Hudson Line and won’t resume until the NTSB finishes documenting the scene and returns the track to the MTA for repairs, Cuomo said.

Officials hope to get train service on the line up and running again by the end of the week, he said.

Swanson told “New Day” that she’s also looking for answers.

“I definitely want to know how and why this happened. … Obviously there was an error. Something went wrong,” she said. “I just hope everybody that needed help got the help they needed.”

CNN’s Alexandra Field reported from New York. CNN’s Holly Yan and Catherine E. Shoichet reported from Atlanta. CNN’s Eden Pontz, AnneClaire Stapleton, Rene Marsh, Kate Bolduan, Wolf Blitzer, Polina Marinova, Lorenzo Ferrigno, Alexandra Field, Kristina Sgueglia, Jon Auerbach, Dana Garrett, Shimon Prokupecz, Mike M. Ahlers and Haley Draznin contributed to this report.

NEW YORK — Four people died and 63 were injured when all seven cars of a Metro-North train ran off the tracks on a sharp curve at 7:20 a.m. Sunday about 100 yards north of the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx.

A New York fire department spokesman confirmed the number of dead and said 11 people had been sent to the hospital in critical condition and six in serious condition.

The MTA identified the victims Sunday as Donna L. Smith, 54, of Newburgh; James G. Lovell, 58, of Cold Spring; James M. Ferrari, 59, of Montrose; and Ahn Kisook, 35, of Queens.

The train, headed south toward Grand Central Terminal, was about half full with about 150 passengers and was not scheduled to stop at the Spuyten Duyvil station, said the state’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, parent company of Metro-North Commuter Railroad.

“On a work day, fully occupied, it would have been a tremendous disaster,” New York City Fire Commissioner Salvatore Joseph Cassano said at the scene.

The derailment occurred in a wooded area where the Hudson and Harlem rivers meet. At least one rail car was lying toppled near the water and others were lying on their sides.

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

“That is a dangerous area on the track just by design,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo told CNN after touring the site. “The trains are going about 70 miles per hour coming down the straight part of the track. They slow to about 30 miles per hour to make that sharp curve … where the Hudson River meets the Harlem River and that is a difficult area of the track.”

Cuomo said it appeared that all passengers had been accounted for.

He said recovery of the train’s black box would reveal more about the train’s speed, possible mechanical issues and whether brakes were applied.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it would be on the scene investigating the accident for at least the next week and would focus on track conditions, signaling systems, mechanical equipment and the performance of the train crew.

Passenger Frank Tatulli told WABC TV he was riding in the first car and the train was traveling “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.

Michael Keaveney, 22, a security worker whose home overlooks the site, said he 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 divers entered the water near the accident, and dozens of firefighters helped pull people from the wreckage. None of the passengers were in the water, said Marjorie Anders of Metro-North.

The derailment was the latest in a string of problems this year for Metro-North. The MTA said details about how the accident would affect Monday morning’s commute were not available.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., was critical of Metro-North, which has had two major service disruptions on the New Haven Line this year.

“This desperately tragic derailment dramatizes again the need for focus on railroad safety and reliability – adding powerful evidence to recent Connecticut incidents. Although causes must be determined, Metro-North must confront questions about adequacy of equipment, tracks, and maintenance and repair practices,” Blumenthal said in a statement Sunday.

In mid-May, an eastbound train derailed near Bridgeport and then was struck by a westbound train, sending more than 70 people to the hospital and suspending full train service between Bridgeport and Stamford for several days.

Also in a May, a 52-year-old track foreman was killed near West Haven by a train traveling on the New Haven Line.

Train service on the line was disrupted in late September when a power station in Mount Vernon, N.Y., that supplies the trains on the New Haven Line failed. Full service restoration took nearly two weeks.

Blumenthal held a congressional hearing in Bridgeport in October about the power failure.

“Riders are losing patience with this railroad and so am I,” Blumenthal said.

Amtrak said its Empire Line service between New York City and Albany was being restored after being halted after the crash. Amtrak’s Northeast corridor service between Boston and Washington was not affected.

Metro-North’s Hudson Line service was suspended between Tarrytown and Grand Central station, and bus service was provided between White Plains and Tarrytown, the MTA said.

It has been a rough year for the Metro-North rail line. There were hearings on Capitol Hill this fall to get to the bottom of a rocky track record for Metro-North. And Sunday morning, another train derailment, this one in the Bronx.

On May 17, more than 70 people were injured during the evening rush when an eastbound train in Bridgeport derailed and struck a westbound train.

Just 11 days later a foreman was killed on the tracks in West Haven. He had requested the track be taken out of service during construction, but a student traffic controller mistakenly allowed service to resume.

On July 18, near the same section as Sunday’s derailment, a freight train went off the tracks, dumping piles of garbage. There were no injuries, but service from Poughkeepsie to Manhattan was delayed for 10 days.

Then on Sept. 25, New Haven to Grand Central commuters felt the brunt of a power cable failure, and the service disruption lasted nearly two weeks.

It was a very busy day in New Haven as commuters made their way through Union Station, returning home after the holiday weekend.

Many riders Fox CT spoke with were concerned about the train derailment Sunday morning in the Bronx that killed four and injured scores more. However, they are keeping things in perspective.

“Safety is top of mind for me, but overall I know the MTA does a lot to keep us safe every day,” said commuter Eric Garren.

“Overall I do feel safe,” said Justin Garren.

“I think Metro North is pretty safe,” said Bharat Bhushan, who lives in New Rochelle, N.Y. “You avoid all the traffic, and it’s pretty reliable.”

When you bring the question of safety to state Rep. Gail Lavielle, (R-143), you get a response of accountability for Metro-North.

“You’ve got to be safe, and that’s the highest priority,” she said. “We’re seeing too much. Is safety not being prioritized?”

Rep. Lavielle is a ranking member of the Transportation Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee. She believes there is a problem between the state and Metro-North.

“The problem is there is no alternative to Metro-North. There is a contract between the State of Connecticut and Metro-North for Metro-North to operate the line.”

Lavielle said the next step is for Connecticut to establish a better procedure to monitor Metro-North and verify the safety of tracks, cars and commuters. Lavielle said what we have now is not good enough.

“This is the busiest rail line in the United States, and in many ways it’s the most old fashioned.”

To check on possible Metro-North schedule changes because of the derailment investigation, click here to visit the MTA website.

metronorthcrash

This aerial photo shows the locomotive of the Metro-North train that derailed in the Bronx, N.Y. Sunday morning. (WPIX)

Four people died and 63 were injured when all seven cars of a Metro-North train ran off the tracks on a sharp curve at 7:20 a.m. Sunday about 100 yards north of the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx.

A New York fire department spokesman confirmed the number of dead and said 11 people had been sent to the hospital in critical condition and six in serious condition. Forty-six people suffered minor injuries.

The train, headed south toward Grand Central Terminal, was about half full with about 150 passengers and was not scheduled to stop at the Spuyten Duyvil station, said the state’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, parent company of Metro-North Commuter Railroad.

“On a work day, fully occupied, it would have been a tremendous disaster,” New York City Fire Commissioner Salvatore Joseph Cassano said at the scene.

The derailment occurred in a wooded area where the Hudson and Harlem rivers meet. At least one rail car was lying toppled near the water and others were lying on their sides.

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

“That is a dangerous area on the track just by design,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo told CNN after touring the site. “The trains are going about 70 miles per hour coming down the straight part of the track. They slow to about 30 miles per hour to make that sharp curve … where the Hudson River meets the Harlem River and that is a difficult area of the track.”

Cuomo said it appeared that all passengers had been accounted for.

He said recovery of the train’s black box would reveal more about the train’s speed, possible mechanical issues and whether brakes were applied.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it would be on the scene investigating the accident for at least the next week and would focus on track conditions, signaling systems, mechanical equipment and the performance of the train crew.

Passenger Frank Tatulli told WABC TV he was riding in the first car and the train was traveling “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.

Michael Keaveney, 22, a security worker whose home overlooks the site, said he 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 divers entered the water near the accident, and dozens of firefighters helped pull people from the wreckage. None of the passengers were in the water, said Marjorie Anders of Metro-North.

To check on possible Metro-North schedule changes because of the derailment investigation, click here to visit the MTA website.

The derailment was the latest in a string of problems this year for Metro-North. The MTA said details about how the accident would affect Monday morning’s commute were not available.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., was critical of Metro-North, which has had two major service distributions on the New Haven Line this year.

“This desperately tragic derailment dramatizes again the need for focus on railroad safety and reliability – adding powerful evidence to recent Connecticut incidents. Although causes must be determined, Metro-North must confront questions about adequacy of equipment, tracks, and maintenance and repair practices,” Blumenthal said in a statement Sunday.

In mid-May, an eastbound train derailed near Bridgeport and then was struck by a westbound train, sending more than 70 people to the hospital and suspending full train service between Bridgeport and Stamford for several days.

Also in a May, a 52-year-old track foreman was killed near West Haven by a train traveling on the New Haven Line.

Train service on the line was disrupted in late September when a power station in Mount Vernon, N.Y., that supplies the trains on the New Haven Line failed. Full service restoration took nearly two weeks.

Blumenthal held a congressional hearing in Bridgeport in October about the power failure.

“Riders are losing patience with this railroad and so am I,” Blumenthal said.

Amtrak said its Empire Line service between New York City and Albany was being restored after being halted after the crash. Amtrak’s Northeast corridor service between Boston and Washington was not affected.

Metro-North’s Hudson Line service was suspended between Tarrytown and Grand Central station, and bus service was provided between White Plains and Tarrytown, the MTA said.

Courant Staff Writer Nicholas Rondinone contributed to the this story. Reuters reports were included in this story.

Advertisement