Hoboken train crash: One dies on platform and 108 injured

The National Transportation Safety Board has sent an investigation team to Hoboken - so far few details are available about why the train failed to slow down before entering the station

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The Independent US

Five years after the last train crash at Hoboken station in 2011, another packed commuter train ploughed into the station on Thursday, injuring 108 people and killing one person on the platform.

The busy commuter train did not slow down as it came into the station around 9am, hitting a concrete block at such speed that it jumped into the air and damaged the ceiling of the station, witnesses say.

One bystander was killed.

In the hours after, as thousands of commuters took buses and the water taxis to get to work, while emergency services worked on the scene.

“I saw a woman pinned under concrete,” Baghyesh Shah told WNBC-TV in New York. “A lot of people were bleeding; one guy was crying.”

The passengers, who had been heading to lower New Jersey and Manhattan on their usual route to work, emerged, scared and confused. One video posted on social media surveyed the twisted wreckage of the train cars, and screaming and crying could be heard in the background as emergency workers scrambled to rescue people who were trapped.

Brian Klein’s train arrived after the crash. He told The Wall Street Journal that police hearded everyone into a waiting room, “then quickly started yelling, ‘Just get out! We don't know if the building is going to hold’”.

At least 50 people from the crashed train were taken to a local trauma centre, and one passenger went straight into surgery.

The station they left behind was a twisted pile of metal, bricks and debris. Dramatic pictures showed the ceiling, caved in, and the wreckage of a train carriage in the terminal.

At the time of writing very few details are available about what went wrong. The train engineer survived and is fully cooperating with investigators, said New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

At 1pm Eastern Time, the first press conference was held. Bella Dinh-Zarr, vice-chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, said her colleague Jim Southworth would lead an investigation, starting later on Thursday.

“I’d like to express, on behalf of the entire NTSB, our condolences and sympathies to everyone who was affected by the accident today.”

“We’ll have more information after we arrive on scene and begin the investigation,” she said. “We will get that to you as soon as we have it.”

It is not yet known how fast the train was going when it came into the station. 

Mr Christie commended the emergency services and the reaction of citizens in the way they carried out the evacuation process and ferried the injured to hospital. He said his background in law enforcement taught him to let the facts lead to a conclusion.

“We’re not going to speculate about the cause of the accident. We are in the midst of an investigation,” he said.

He said he would work with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Port Authority and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to ensure a “seamless” investigation.

Structural engineers are assessing how safe the building is, he said, but did not confirm when the terminal will be open again. The full Path train service will resume on Thursday, however.

Governor Cumo added: “We know what happened but we don't know why it happened. The silver lining is that there was only one fatality.”

The accident has shone a spotlight on the crumbling infrastructure in the US, one key talking point of the 2016 presidential campaign.

 

 

Witnesses say NJ Transit trains, which covey around 100,000 commuters per day, are “rickety”, with plastic seats. The Hoboken train was full on Thursday morning, with many people were standing in the aisles and doorways.

The number of train derailments in the US has come down a long way in the past four decades, from around 9,000 per year in the late 1970s to less than 2,000 in 2015, according to the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis.

The most recent and devastating train crash was in Philadelphia in May last year, when an Amtrak train derailed after the engineer’s attention was diverted to an emergency involving another train. It was traveling more than twice the authorised speed of 50mph before hitting a curve in the track. The crash killed eight people and more than 180 others were critically injured.

At the same commuter hub station of Hoboken in 2011, a morning commuter train ran into a bumper at the end of the platform, injuring 34 people.

The terminal is an historic one from 1907 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

It was largely restored to its original condition in 2004 and was then extensively damaged during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

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