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Four killed after New York passenger train derails

130 firefighters attended the scene of the derailment, which occurred at a sharp bend in the track. Picture: AP

130 firefighters attended the scene of the derailment, which occurred at a sharp bend in the track. Picture: AP

  • by VERENA DOBNIK
 

A NEW York City passenger train derailed and came to rest feet from the water yesterday, killing four people and injuring more than 60, authorities said.

The early morning Metro-North train into Manhattan came off the tracks on a bend where the Hudson and Harlem rivers meet in the Bronx.

“Four people lost their lives today in the holiday season, right after Thanksgiving,” New York governor Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference. Eleven of those hurt were believed to be critically injured and another six seriously hurt, according to the Fire Department.

The train driver was among the injured, Mr Cuomo said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is set to investigate Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) chairman Thomas Prendergast said investigators would look at factors including the train, the track and signal system, the train driver and speed.

The curve where the derailment occurred is in a slow-speed area. Several injured passengers said the train seemed to be going too fast as it took the curve near the Spuyten Duyvil station. Joel Zaritsky was dozing as he travelled to the city for a dental convention.

He said: “I woke up when the car started rolling several times. Then I saw the gravel coming at me, and I heard people screaming. There was smoke everywhere and debris. People were thrown to the other side of the train.”

Mike Gallo witnessed the crash as he was walking his dog. He looked down at the tracks and “knew it was a tragedy right away”, he said. “I saw injured people climbing out of the train.”

Three of the dead were found outside the train, and one was found inside, authorities said. Passengers were taken off the derailed train, with dozens of them bloodied and scratched, holding ice packs to their heads.

Edwin Valero was in an apartment building above the accident. At first, he said, he did not notice that the train had turned over. “I didn’t realise it had been turned over until I saw a firefighter walking on the window,” he said.

President Barack Obama said his thoughts and prayers were with the friends and families of the victims of the train derailment. The White House issued a statement saying the president was briefed on the accident yesterday morning.

Yesterday’s accident is the second passenger train derailment in six months for the rail service.

On 17 May, an eastbound train derailed in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and was struck by a westbound train. The crash injured 73 passengers, two engineers and a conductor. Eleven days later, track foreman Robert Luden was struck and killed by a train in West Haven, Connecticut.

In July, a freight train full of rubbish derailed while using a Metro-North line, and in the autumn service on Metro-North’s line between New York City and Connecticut was disrupted for days after a high-voltage feeder line failed.

Earlier this month, Metro-North’s chief engineer, Robert Puciloski, told members of the NTSB investigating the May derailment and Mr Luden’s death that the railroad is “behind in several areas,” including a five-year schedule of cyclical maintenance that had not been conducted in the area of the Bridgeport derailment since 2005.

 

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