LIRR Train Crashes Extent of Injuries. On Wednesday morning, January 4, 2017, a Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) train crashed into a bumper block at the end of the tracks at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn. More than 100 people were injured, according to Newsday. The investigation will most likely focus on the train engineer’s attentiveness, said experts.
The last indication was that 103 people had been hurt. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo briefed reporters in the vicinity of the accident and said it was difficult to say exactly how many people were hurt as many of the train’s passengers had left the scene. Most of the injuries were described by Cuomo as “minor.”
Some of the injured were taken to Brooklyn Hospital Center, New York Methodist Hospital and Kings County Hospital Center, although the number of people who required hospitalization was not immediately known. It was believed by the governor that the most serious injury was a possible broken leg sustained by a woman, but Joan Clark, Brooklyn Hospital Center spokeswoman said, the woman’s leg was not broken, and that everyone was “in pretty good shape.” She expected all 31 people that were hospitalized to be discharged later that day, Newsday reports.
“Thank God this was not a worse accident,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said to reporters. “This is, thankfully, a very contained accident.”
Personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP are actively reviewing potential lawsuits on behalf of individuals who have been injured in an accident.
When and How the Crash Happened
The six-car electric train started out in Far Rockaway at 7:16 a.m. and was to arrive at Atlantic Terminal at 8:11 a.m. with 430 passengers on board, the LIRR reports. As it pulled into Track 6 of Atlantic Terminal, the train was traveling at a “fairly low rate of speed” when it hit the bumper block and caused part of the front car to derail, Cuomo said. “The train came in and hit the so-called bumping block and went by it for a few feet,” Cuomo stated at the scene, reports Newsday.
MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast accompanied Cuomo at the briefing and commented that, “Obviously, the train is supposed to stop short of the bumping block. It did not do that.” FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief Dan Donoghue said the train’s wheels “lifted up” and the train crashed through a small waiting room that was at the end of the track. Donoghue believed the room was empty, and if not, they got out quickly as the room sustained a significant amount of damage. Donoghue said that a rail from the track “pierced” the bottom of the train. “We’re actually fortunate we didn’t have more severe injuries.”
NYPD (New York Police Department) Chief of Transit, Joe Fox said investigators are working on recovering the train’s “black box” event recorder. Prendergast said the brakes and other operating parts of the train would be inspected and the train crew would be interviewed.
Even though the LIRR has signal technology in place to automatically control the speed of trains, when approaching the end of a line, it would have been “primarily the locomotive engineer’s responsibility to stop the train,” according to Prendergast.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Railway Administration both said they were sending investigators to the scene of the crash. A Syracuse-based railroad reconstruction expert and investigator, Robert Halstead, said the probe will be looking at the train’s engineer and any possible distractions, such as personal electronic devices, whether or not the engineer was fatigued, and to examine the last 72 hours before the crash to ascertain if these are potential issues, reports Newsday.
The Atlantic Terminal has a similar design to New Jersey Transit’s Hoboken station where in September 2016 a train failed to stop at the station and crashed through bumper blocks, killing one person and injuring more than 100. Investigators later determined that the engineer had undiagnosed sleep apnea. Last year the LIRR began testing engineers for the sleep disorder.
Moriches railroad safety expert Carl Berkowitz said the accident on January 4 was probably made worse by the fact that many Brooklyn LIRR commuters move to the front of the trains for easier access to connecting subway lines, and would have been standing as the train approached the station. “And a body in motion stays in motion,” said Berkowitz who expects that many riders would have been violently thrown as the train came to a sudden stop.
Atlantic Terminal is the LIRR’s second-busiest western terminal, after Penn Station. It carries about 10,000 customers on an average weekday morning. The January 4th accident marks the second LIRR accident with injuries in less than three months. More than 30 people were injured in October when an LIRR train derailed near New Hyde Park. Mark Epstein, chairman of the LIRR Commuter Council, the railroad’s official watchdog group, said in a statement that he was thankful that the injuries were not more serious, but the number of LIRR accidents in recent years is “troubling.”
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