At least one person was killed and more than 100 injured, some critically, when a commuter train ploughed into Hoboken station in New Jersey during the morning rush hour on Thursday, officials and media said.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told CNN one person was killed in the crash at one of the New York City area’s busiest transit hubs.
MSNBC reported three fatalities, citing the Regional Medical Examiner’s Office in Newark and the Jersey City Medical Center. Reuters could not immediately confirm the deaths.
Dramatic images posted by commuters on social media showed the front of the train had smashed right through the station concourse at high speed, bringing down part of the roof, scattering debris and wreckage and causing devastation.
The injured were carried on stretchers to waiting ambulances while a couple of hundred emergency workers shuttled in and out of the station. Dozens of police boats bobbed in the Hudson River alongside the terminal.
A spokeswoman for train operator New Jersey Transit, Jennifer Nelson, said well over 100 people were hurt, many of them critically.
Many passengers were initially trapped in the wreckage, witnesses and officials said, but they were later all reported to have been freed. Fox News said the engineer, or train driver, had to be extricated from the front car.
There was no word yet on what caused the crash. Federal investigators were on the scene. Christie told CNN there were no indications it was anything other than an accident.
Hoboken lies on the Hudson’s west bank across from New York City. Its station is used by many commuters travelling into Manhattan from New Jersey and further afield.
Linda Albelli, 62, said she was sitting in one of the rear cars when the train approached the station. She said she knew something was wrong a moment before the impact.thought to myself, ‘Oh my god, he’s not slowing up, and this is where we’re usually stop,'” Albelli said. “‘We’re going too fast,’ and with that there was this tremendous crash.”
Passengers helped each other off the train and onto the platform. The injured sat on benches in the station while they waited for first responders, said Albelli, who lives in Closter, New Jersey. She did not know how many had been hurt.
“There was just so much, a lot of people in need of attention,” she said. “There were a lot of people who were really hurt.”
The train had about five or six carriages and was not full because many passengers got off at Secaucus, Albelli said.
‘HARD TO BELIEVE’
New Jersey Transit employee Michael Larson talked to reporters outside the station looking shocked and with blood from one of the injured passengers on the knee of his pants.
“It’s hard to believe. I have no idea what caused it,” Larson said. “The whole roof was caved in.”
A major transit hub, the historic green-roofed Hoboken Station is served by NJ Transit commuter trains connecting much of New Jersey with the country’s largest city, as well as PATH, a more local subway-like service going into Manhattan, a local light rail service and ferry service to New York.
Train #1614 was on the Pascack Valley line, which goes through Northern Bergen County, and had originated at Spring Valley, according to media reports. It was on track five when it hit the Hoboken terminal building at about 08:45 EDT.
Jamie Weatherhead-Saul, a passenger on train, said the people sitting in front of him were badly injured.
“Once we got off we noticed people were stuck and had to come out windows. And the conductor came off and he was completely bloodied,” Weatherhead-Saul said.
The Federal Railroad Administration said its investigators were at the scene. The National Transportation Safety Board said it would send its major incidents team to investigate.
In May 2011, a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey train crashed at the same Hoboken station, injuring more than 30 people when it ploughed into a bumping post at the end of the track. An NTSB investigation determined excessive speed was the main cause of the accident.
The Hoboken crash is the latest in a string of fatal passenger train crashes in the United States that have included other accidents in California, New York and Philadelphia.
In September, a Metrolink commuter train carrying nearly 200 passengers crashed into a truck in Los Angeles. In May 2015, an Amtrak passenger train crashed in Philadelphia, killing eight people and injuring more than 200.
In February 2015, a New York commuter train crashed into a vehicle and killed six.
Advocates of positive train control – a system that is designed to kick in and halt a train if the engineer misses a stop signal – cite it for helping to combat human error, but there have been delays in implementing it more widely.