The train derailed in a curve on the tracks, causing the locomotive and all seven passenger cars to jump the track near the Spuyten Duyvil station, which is about 10 north of the Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan, according to CNN, citing the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
Three of the passengers who died were thrown from the train as it “came off the track and was twisting and turning,” New York Fire Department Chief Edward Kilduff told reporters, according to the CNN report. Amanda Swanson, who survived the crash, told CNN that the windows of the cars broke out and that, “the gravel came flying up in our faces.”
“I really didn’t know if I would survive,” Swanson told CNN. She shielded her face from the rubble with her bag, saying “The train felt like it was on its side and dragging for a long time. … The whole thing felt like slow motion,” she added. The train was on its way to Grand Central Station from Poughkeepsie, which is about 74 miles up the Hudson River. The derailment took place on Sunday morning at about 7:20, said Earl Weener of the NTSB. At least 67 people were injured, Joe Bruno, New York’s commissioner of emergency management told CNN; 11 were in critical condition as of Sunday evening, said Governor Andrew Cuomo.
At the time of the crash, the locomotive was driving through a 30-mile-per-hour curve, said Weener. The curve configuration is just one of the items being looked at by investigators, along with the recovered event recorders. “Our mission is to understand not just what happened, but why it happened, with the intent of preventing it from ever happening again,” he said, according to CNN.
Another passenger, Dennis O’Neil, told NBC New York that he felt the train was speeding. “It was coming towards Spuyten Duyvil and you could feel it starting to lean and it was like, ‘hey, what’s going on,'” he said. “And then it hit the curb real hard and flopped over and slid down the hill. A couple people were hurt very badly right in front of me.” Governor Cuomo also told TODAY that the cause of the crash will likely end up being speed-related. At the time of the derailment, the train was carrying about 150 people, according to Laureen Coyne, New York Metropolitan Transit Authority’s (MTA) director of risk management. The MTA includes the Metro-North railroad, CNN reported.
One of the cars stopped just feet away from the Harlem River. “I heard this horrible, whooshing sound. … It was very disturbing, very loud,” said Hank Goldman, a NY resident who lives near the tracks, CNN reported. “I jumped out of bed and looked out the window and I saw a light-colored object lying down. I thought it was the roadway to the train. Then I got my binoculars, and I couldn’t believe my eyes, that the train had jumped the tracks right here.” According to Dr. David Listman, director of the emergency department at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, one of the injured suffered a potentially paralyzing spinal cord injury. New York-Presbyterian Hospital said it was treating 17 patients; four are listed in critical condition.
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 died, according to NY’s MTA. The train engineer is among the injured and told investigators that he applied the brakes, but that the train did not slow, according to a law enforcement official who was at the scene. “That will be a key point of concern, whether this train was moving too quickly,” Bruno said.
This July, a freight train derailed at the same curve, which left some 1,500 feet of tract damaged, according to the MTA at the time. Weener told CNN that the NTSB would consider a potential connection between the two crashes. Investigators will also look at a number of other items, including the condition of the track, the signal system, and crew performance and will look for data and video recordings that may have captured the derailment, NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do,” she said. Federal authorities will also be investigation a two-passenger train crash that involved Metro-North in Connecticut this May.
“It is important that the entire regional track infrastructure be examined to identify any chronic issues that have led to past derailments or could lead to future derailments in order to ensure the safety of the millions of people who use the trains every single day,” New York State Senator Charles J. Fuschillo Jr. said in a statement.
Many of those who were injured use Metro-North to get to work or school and will have to deal with psychological trauma, an emergency room doctor told NBC News.