Victims of deadly NY train derailment identified as NTSB seeks cause of accident

 

December 01, 2013

Authorities on Sunday night identified the four people killed in a early morning train derailment as federal authorities say they are just beginning to search into what caused the accident.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police Department identified the deceased as Ahn Kisook, 35, of Queens, N.Y., Donna L. Smith, 54, of Newburgh, N.Y., James G. Lovell, 58, of Cold Spring, N.Y. and James M. Ferrari, 59, of Montrose, N.Y. More than 60 others were injured in the derailment, at least 11 critically.

Federal authorities said in an afternoon press conference they will examine factors ranging from the track condition to the crew’s performance. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the track did not appear to be faulty, leaving speed as a possible culprit for the crash.

The speed limit on the curve is 30 mph, compared with 70 mph in the area approaching it, National Transportation Safety Board member Earl Weener said. Weener said investigators had not yet spoken to the train conductor, who was among the injured.

Authorities did not yet know how fast the train was traveling but had found a data recorder, he said. One passenger, Frank Tatulli, told WABC-TV that the train appeared to be going “a lot faster” than usual as it approached the sharp curve near the Spuyten Duyvil station.

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,  Weener said.

Sixty-three people were injured — 11 critically and 6 seriously — in the accident that occurred at 7:20 a.m., about 100 yards north of the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx, according to authorities.

A Metro-North spokesman tells FoxNews.com the derailment involved a southbound Hudson Line commuter train departing Poughkeepsie in Dutchess County at 5:54 a.m. — the second train to leave that station, Sunday.

The train was due to arrive at Manhattan’s Grand Central Station at 7:43 a.m.  Passengers were removed from the wreck by authorities, with dozens bloodied and scratched, holding ice packs to their heads.

“I was asleep and I woke up when the car started rolling several times,” said a bloodied Joel Zaritsky, who was on his way to New York City for a dental convention.

“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.”

The whole train comprised seven cars, plus a diesel locomotive, and five of the cars went off the tracks, said Metro-North spokesman Aaron Donovan.

The derailment occurred near the Harlem River, and authorities say two cars were left lying on their sides, although none of the cars went into the nearby waterway.

“One approached the water and came close, but did not go in,” Donovan tells FoxNews.com.

Donovan said a locomotive was pushing the train from behind, although the operating engineer who controlled the train was stationed in the front of the first passenger car.

Other Metro-North railroad incidents in 2013.

New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said there were initial concerns that people may have been ejected from the train after the crash and landed in the water. The NYPD dispatched its dive team, helicopters and canine squad and nothing was found, Kelly said.

“It’s going to be a long time before this is cleared up,” MTA spokeswoman Marjorie Anders told Fox News. “It was not a hugely crowded train,” she added.

Dr. Ernest Patti, of St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, told Fox News that 12 passengers were taken to St. Barnabas — 2 were in critical condition and 10 were in stable condition.

The patients, Patti said, suffered mostly broken bones, including compound fractures where bone pierces the skin. Some suffered broken ribs, the doctor said.

Donovan says the train was an express and was not due to stop in the station. Sunday’s incident occurred just south of where a train ferrying garbage derailed in mid-July.

Edwin Valero was in an apartment building above the accident scene when the train derailed. He said that although none of the cars went into the water where the Harlem River meets the Hudson, at least one ended up a few feet from the water’s edge.

He says he didn’t realize the train had turned on its side until he saw a firefighter walking on the window.

Metro-North said it will provide bus service between White Plains and the Tarrytown Station for customers traveling in and out of Grand Central Station. Bus service was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.

Amtrak Empire Line Service is currently being suspended between New York City and Albany, and no estimate was available for when service would be restored.

However, Amtrak said Northeast Corridor service between Boston and Washington is not affected.