HOBOKEN: A packed commuter train ploughed into a station in New Jersey during the morning rush hour Thursday, killing at least one person and injuring over 100, many of them critically.
The train failed to stop as it sped into Hoboken station, went up over the bumper blocks at the end of the track and rammed into a wall, a New Jersey transit official told AFP at the scene. Michael Larson, another transit employee, told reporters he heard a “bomb-like explosion” as the train hit the bumpers with such force that it went airborne — hitting the station’s roof and causing it to partly collapse.
“It was going considerably faster than it should have normally been at the terminal,” he said. “It went up and over the bumper block, through the depot… and came to rest at the wall by the waiting room.” Video and photos on social media showed major damage to the transit hub just over the Hudson river from Manhattan, with the train tangled in wires and debris from what appeared to be caved in portions of the roof.
Passengers described the train — which was carrying around 250 people — ramming at full speed into the bumper at the end of the track. “We never slowed down,” Jim Finan, a commuter from New Jersey, told Fox News. “We ploughed, I mean, right through the bumper.”
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie confirmed to CNN one fatality from the early morning accident. US media earlier reported that three people had died. No official toll was immediately available. State transit spokeswoman Jennifer Nelson told reporters at the scene that more than 100 people were injured, with “multiple critical injuries.” All the victims have been evacuated to two local hospitals.
Kenneth Garay, chief medical officer at Jersey City medical center, said its surgeons were “all hands on deck” as they treat patients suffering from orthopedic injuries, internal injuries and lacerations. “None at this point are life-threatening. They’re critical and stable and being carefully monitored,” he told CNN.
Garay said that another 40 people were transported from the train station by bus to be treated for “walking types of injuries.” Governor Christie told CNN there was no longer anyone trapped on board the train, and that the train engineer was among those being treated in hospital for unspecified injuries.
Nelson told reporters it was not known how fast the train was travelling as it entered the station. “We have to investigate all potential causes of the derailment,” Governor Christie said, “but you can see from the level of destruction at the station that this was obviously a train that was traveling at a high rate of speed.”
Train #1614 was arriving from Spring Valley when it struck the Hoboken terminal building at around 8:45 am (1245 GMT), New Jersey Transit said in a statement, adding that all services were currently suspended in and out of the station.
Finan, the passenger interviewed by CNN, said it was an unusually crowded morning. “Everyone who was standing kind of went flying,” he said. “I saw a lot of head injuries and kind of people with cuts.” “Afterwards there was some panic. People were trying to smash some windows out.”
Emergency vehicles converged on the scene in response to the crash. Pancho Bernasconi, Getty’s director of photography for news who arrived just after the crash, told AFP he saw people running for shelter, several of them injured.
Passengers described a scene of chaos with dazed and bloodied people making their way to safety. “We crashed, and the lights went out. A few people screamed,” Leon Offengenden told CNN. “It was pretty chaotic. And people just in shock and everybody has photos and cameras out and iPads. It was pretty intense,” he said.
The last major train crash in the United States was in May 2015, when an Amtrak train linking Washington to New York derailed in Philadelphia, leaving eight dead and 200 injured. In December 2013 in New York a suburban train derailed in the Bronx while travelling at several times the speed limit, leaving four people dead and more than 60 injured.