Investigation Into CT Commuter Train Crash Begins

8:15 AM, May 18, 2013   |    comments
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Fairfield, CT - Investigators are trying to determine what caused a commuter trail to derail Friday, injuring 60 people when it slammed into another train heading the opposite direction.

At a news conference Friday night, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said five people were critically injured and one was very critically hurt in Friday evening's crash on the Metro-North Railroad, which serves the northern suburbs of New York City.

The crash severely damaged the tracks and threatened to snarl travel in the congested Northeast Corridor.

Malloy said there was no reason to believe it was anything other than an accident. He said officials with the National Transportation Safety Board will be heading an investigation into the crash, which he hoped would conclude on-site by Monday.

"We're most concerned about the injured and ultimately reopening the system," Malloy said from the scene about three hours after the crash.

Passengers described a chaotic, terrifying scene of crunching metal and flying bodies.

"All I know was I was in the air, hitting seats, bouncing around, flying down the aisle and finally I came to a stop on one seat," Lola Oliver, 49, of Bridgeport, told The Associated Press. "It happened so fast I had no idea what was going on. All I know is we crashed."

About 700 people were on board the Metro-North trains when one heading east from New York City's Grand Central Station to New Haven derailed about 6:10 p.m. just outside Bridgeport, MTA and Bridgeport officials said.

Service on the New Haven Line was suspended between South Norwalk and New Haven. According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Twitter feed, service would not return to normal on the line until "a full investigation is complete and repairs are made."

Malloy said the incident affected rail traffic along the entire Northeast Corridor, including Amtrak trains, which have been suspended indefinitely between New York's Penn Station and Boston.

Metro-North officials said the 5:30 p.m. out of Grand Central Terminal, due at New Haven at 7:18 p.m., derailed in the area of Bridgeport.

"The eastbound train derailed, which is what caused the trains to collide. It derailed in such a way that it went into the path of the westbound train on an adjacent track," said Aaron Donovan, a Metro-North spokesman.

A westbound train, the 4:41 p.m. out of New Haven, due in Grand Central at 7:18 p.m., collided with the first train, leaving both trains derailed, officials said. Malloy said most of the injured were traveling in the rail cars affected by the impact - the third car on one train, the lead car on the other.

Police and emergency medical responders treated the wounded, who were taken to Bridgeport Hospital and St. Vincent's Medical Center, both in Bridgeport.

Passenger Bradley Agar of Westport, Conn., said he was in the first car of the westbound train when he heard screaming and the window smash behind him.

"I saw the first hit, the bump, bump, bump all the way down," he said.

Agar had returned to work this week for the first time since breaking his shoulder in January. And since he was still healing, he thought it would be safer to take the train than drive.

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch said the disruption caused by the train accident could cost the region's economy millions of dollars.

"A lot of people rely on this, and we've got to get this reconnected as soon as possible," Finch said.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority operates the Metro-North Railroad, the second-largest commuter railroad in the nation. The Metro-North main lines - the Hudson, Harlem, and New Haven - run northward from New York City's Grand Central Terminal into suburban New York and Connecticut.

USA TODAY

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