After Metro-North Derailment That Killed Four, Federal Transportation Board Begins Investigation


At 7:20 on Sunday morning, a southbound Metro-North train heading from Poughkeepsie to Grand Central derailed near the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx, killing four people and injuring 63, 11 of them critically. On Sunday night, the dead were identified by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police; they are Donna L. Smith, 54, of Newburgh, New York, James G. Lovell, 58, of Cold Spring, James M. Ferrari, 59, of Montrose, and Ahn Kisook, 35, of Queens.

It’s still not clear what caused the derailment, although an anonymous “senior city official” told the New York Times that a train operator pulled from the wreckage told first responders that the brakes had failed, something that hasn’t been publicly confirmed. The incident happened near where a northbound train hauling garbage derailed in July. In a press conference last night, Governor Andrew Cuomo acknowledge the previous accident, but said, “We have no reason to believe those two things are related.”

The National Transportation Safety Board arrived on the scene at 12:30 p.m. and has already begun investigating the cause of the accident. At the same press conference, NTSB member Earl Weener told reporters the tracks on that section of the rail line would be examined “for any anomalies.”

Weener also said that the signaling system for the rail line would be studied, along with the brakes, and the condition of all mechanical components. A “human performance team” will also look at the behavior of the crew on board at the time, looking for “anomalies” there. A “survival factors team” will look at the interior of the cars to try to understand how the fatalities and injuries occurred.

After the investigators have finished their work, MTA officials will re-take control of the tracks, to get them operational again. But that’s expected to take some time; the MTA put out a press release saying that shuttle service would be available starting at 5 a.m. Monday between the Yonkers Station and the 242nd stop of the 1 line. Two additional 1 trains will also operate during peak hours. But the MTA is recommending that commuters use the Harlem line as an alternative to Metro-North, and urging those who can to work from home. The trains, needless to say, will be very crowded.

The MTA added that they are “cooperating fully” with the NTSB investigation, and that when they’re able to, Metro-North crews will begin clearing the cars from the scene using cranes.

The Associated Press also points out that while accidents on the train line have decreased in the past ten years, accidents with injuries this year on the line are far higher than they have been at any time in the previous decade. About 123 people have been injured in Metro-North accidents this year; the second-highest injury rate was in 2007. That year, seven people were injured.

The full press briefing from the National Transporation Safety Board is below:

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