(Hoboken, New Jersey – September 29, 2016)
New Jersey Transit train #1614, which is to stop and offload all passengers, many for transfer to New York City-bound trains, failed to stop on its assigned stub-end arrival track at the Hoboken, NJ depot. The train plowed through the bumper stop and into the passenger departure/arrival area of the station where an estimated 15,000 people arrive, depart or transfer to other trains as the passengers go to or come from work daily. The derailment resulted in the tragic death of at least one and possibly three rail riders and injured more than an additional 100, many who were in critical condition, Thursday morning at about 8:45 A.M., EDT.
The confusion in casualty numbers may have resulted from one confirmed death and two extremely critical patients who were hospitalized.
Officials were calling the tragedy the result of either an equipment accident or operator error as the train crashed into the station, leaving twisted piles of metal and brick as part of the heavily-traveled station collapsed on top of waiting passengers as well as the train’s leading control-cab car. The brunt of the crash was felt in the heavily-loaded two forward coaches, as people planning to transfer were packed into those cars, as well as passengers waiting at the station in arrival/departure areas.
First car passenger Nancy Bido told New York NBC Channel 4 that the train “just felt like it never stopped. It didn’t slow down. It didn’t brake.”
Survivors described people screaming, bloodied and entrapped in the wreckage of the first car. “You felt like this huge, huge bang,” recalled Steve Mesiano, another passenger. “The next thing I know, we are plowing through the platform,” added passenger Bhagyesh Shah, who had chosen to ride in the rear of the car instead of the forward position he generally took. “It was for a couple of seconds, but it felt like an eternity.”
Shah also reported that “I saw a woman pinned under concrete. A lot of people were bleeding, one guy was crying.”
The scene was chaotic as the nearby Jersey City Medical Center rushed several trauma and emergency units to the tragic scene. The parking areas outside the station were turned into a triage center.
While both the Federal Railroad Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were dispatching investigative teams to the site, David Porter of the Associated Press reported that “A crash at the same station on a different train line injured more than 30 people in 2011. The PATH (Port Authority Trans Hudson) commuter train crashed into bumpers at the end of the tracks on a Sunday morning.”
New Jersey Transit was still in the process of installing the Positive Train Control satellite-based accident prevention system which is designed to slow or stop trains prior to collisions.