Sub­way train de­rails, scar­ing pas­sen­gers, in­jur­ing 34 and re­new­ing safety con­cerns

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY DAVID PORTER

NEW YORK | A sub­way train de­railed near a sta­tion in Har­lem on Tues­day, fright­en­ing pas­sen­gers and re­sult­ing in mi­nor injuries as hundreds of peo­ple were evac­u­ated from trains along the sub­way line.

“We started see­ing sparks through the win­dows. Peo­ple were fall­ing,” said pas­sen­ger Su­san Pak of En­gle­wood Cliffs, New Jer­sey. She said the A train jerked and be­gan shak­ing vi­o­lently as it ap­proached the sta­tion at 125th Street and St. Nicholas Av­enue.

Two of the eight cars on the train de­railed just be­fore 10 a.m. Sparks from the skid­ding train briefly ig­nited garbage on the track, but there was no se­ri­ous fire, said Joe Lhota, chair­man of the Metropoli­tan Trans­porta­tion Au­thor­ity.

The cause was un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Mr. Lhota said the emer­gency brak­ing sys­tem on the train trig­gered, but it wasn’t im­me­di­ately clear why. He said he didn’t know yet if a pas­sen­ger had pulled the emer­gency brake.

“This, to the best of my knowl­edge, does not look like a fail­ure on the part of equip­ment, does not look like a fail­ure on the part of the track it­self,” he said. “We need to de­ter­mine what it is.”

Fire of­fi­cials said 34 peo­ple suf­fered non­life-threat­en­ing injuries.

Three other trains were in the tun­nel at the time of the de­rail­ment, Mr. Lhota said. All were evac­u­ated.

It’s un­clear what ef­fect the sit­u­a­tion would have on the af­ter­noon com­mute. For now, ser­vice on the af­fected train line is sus­pended, Mr. Lhota said.

De­lays were re­ported through­out the sub­way sys­tem, which has been plagued by prob­lems this year.

Jack Cox, a soft­ware de­vel­oper, was on the train when it be­gan jostling, and he felt a “large thump.” It all lasted about 30 sec­onds, he said.

“Dur­ing the whole time, it was just like, ‘What’s go­ing on? What’s go­ing to hap­pen?’ Then it stopped,” Mr. Cox said. “I didn’t have time to be scared be­fore then, but I looked around and the woman next to me was curled up in some sort of fe­tal tuck.”

Mr. Cox said smoke started com­ing in from one end of the car. “It wasn’t heavy smoke, but it was fright­en­ing,” he said.

He said rid­ers ended up walk­ing through the dark­ened cars us­ing cell­phones for light and ex­it­ing onto the plat­form.

Other trains ap­proach­ing the sta­tion halted in their tracks. Pic­tures and video posted on so­cial me­dia showed pas­sen­gers evac­u­at­ing through dark­ened sub­way tun­nels.

Emer­gency crews shut off track power after de­rail­ments to pre­vent evac­uees from be­ing elec­tro­cuted.

Ju­lian Robin­son said he was stuck on one stopped train for 45 min­utes to an hour be­fore rescuers ar­rived to es­cort pas­sen­gers along the tracks into the sta­tion.

“Peo­ple didn’t panic,” he said, adding that the sta­tion wasn’t smoky, but there was a strong, acrid smell.

The train de­railed as the MTA was pre­par­ing to cel­e­brate the re­open­ing of a sub­way sta­tion at the south­ern tip of Man­hat­tan that had been closed since it was flooded by Su­per­storm Sandy in Oc­to­ber 2012.

The South Ferry sta­tion on the No. 1 line re­opened after $340 mil­lion worth of re­pairs. MTA em­ploy­ees and con­trac­tors in hard hats cheered as the first train rolled into the pris­tine new sta­tion.

Rid­ers had to use an older, out­moded sta­tion that only had room for the first five cars of a 10-car train dur­ing the lengthy re­pair process.

“It was a big in­con­ve­nience for a long time,” said plumber Don Geba, a pas­sen­ger on the first train to leave the new sta­tion.

The num­ber of sub­way de­lays has tripled in the past five years, to 70,000 per month. In re­cent months, sev­eral high-pro­file in­ci­dents have oc­curred, in­clud­ing sub­way trains stuck in tun­nels for an hour or more. In April a power out­age backed up trains around the city and closed a key Man­hat­tan sta­tion for 12 hours.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

Emer­gency ser­vice per­son­nel work at the scene of a sub­way train de­rail­ment Tues­day in the Har­lem neigh­bor­hood of New York after a train de­railed, fright­en­ing pas­sen­gers and re­sult­ing in a power out­age as peo­ple were evac­u­ated. The fire de­part­ment treated a hand­ful of peo­ple for mi­nor injuries.

Sub­way pas­sen­gers were trapped on sev­eral other trains after the ac­ci­dent. Power out­ages fol­low­ing the in­ci­dent led to the evac­u­a­tions of sev­eral trains trapped in tun­nels be­low the city.

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