By Frank McGurty and Amy Tennery
HOBOKEN, N.J. (Reuters) – Three people were killed and more than 100 injured, some critically, when a commuter train derailed and ploughed through Hoboken station in New Jersey during the morning rush hour on Thursday, U.S. media and a transit official said.
Citing medical officials, U.S. media reports said three people were killed. Well over 100 people were hurt, many of them critically, Jennifer Nelson, a spokeswoman for train operator New Jersey Transit, told reporters at the scene. She did not confirm any fatalities.
Dramatic pictures posted by commuters showed a train carriage that appeared to have smashed right through the station concourse, collapsing a section of the roof, scattering debris and wreckage and causing devastation.
ABC News said on its website that New Jersey Transit was reporting many passengers were trapped. Fox News said the engineer, or train driver, had to be extricated from the front car.
Hoboken lies on the west bank of the Hudson River across from New York City. Its station, one of the busiest in the metropolitan area, is used by many commuters travelling into Manhattan from New Jersey and further afield.
There was no word yet on what caused the crash. Federal investigators were en route to the scene.
Linda Albelli, 62, said she was sitting in her seat in one of the rear cars when the train approached the station. She said she knew something was wrong a moment before the impact.
“I 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. They ultimately had to cross the tracks to get to safety, she said: “When we got on the platform there was nowhere to go. The ceiling had come down.”
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 exit 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.
The train was on the Pascack Valley line, which goes through Northern Bergen County, and had originated at Spring Valley, according to media reports. NBC News said it was on track five when it struck the Hoboken terminal building.
Jaimie 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 en route to 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 worst passenger train crash in recent years in the United States was the crash of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia in May, 2015 that killed eight passengers and injured 186.
(Additional reporting by Laila Kearney and David Ingram in New York, and Susan Heavey and Tim Ahmann in Washington; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Frances Kerry)