NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City commuter train rounding a riverside curve derailed yesterday, killing four people and injuring more than 60 in a crash that threw some riders from toppling cars and swiftly raised questions about whether excessive speed, mechanical problems or human error could have played a role.
Some of the roughly 150 passengers on the early morning Metro-North train from Poughkeepsie to Manhattan were jolted from sleep around 7:20 a.m. to screams and the frightening sensation of their compartment rolling over on a bend in the Bronx where the Hudson and Harlem rivers meet. When the motion stopped, all seven cars and the locomotive had lurched off the rails, and the lead car was only inches from the water. It was the latest accident in a troubled year for the nation’s second-biggest commuter railroad, which had never experienced passenger death in an accident in its 31-year history.
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.”
In their efforts to find passengers, rescuers shattered windows, searched nearby woods and waters and used pneumatic jacks and air bags to peer under wreckage. Crews planned to bring in cranes during the night to right the overturned cars on the slight chance anyone might still be underneath, National Transportation Safety Board member Earl Weener said.
The agency was just beginning its search into what caused the derailment, and Weener said investigators had not yet spoken to the train conductor, who was among the injured.