Neighborhoods

NJ Transit Train Was Speeding Into the Station Before Fatal Crash

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Authorities are still trying to determine why the New Jersey Transit train that crashed into the Hoboken Terminal yesterday morning was traveling so fast when it entered the station.

The incident occurred at 8:45 a.m., when the train, traveling at a high speed and carrying 250 passengers, plowed into a barrier at the end of the track and became airborne, collapsing the roof of the terminal. 

Falling debris on the platform fatally struck Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, a 34-year-old mother who lived in Hoboken, New Jersey. She had dropped her toddler off at daycare just hours prior to the incident.

Two other people sustained life-threatening injuries and dozens more are being treated at nearby hospitals.

The train’s engineer, Thomas Gallagher, was hospitalized and is in stable condition. Results from a blood test taken as a routine part of the investigation showed Gallagher, 48, had no drugs or alcohol in his system. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said the nineteen-year NJ Transit employee was cooperating with law enforcement officials.

“The train came in at much too high rate of speed, and the question is: ‘Why is that?’ ” Christie said at a press conference following the crash.

“We know what happened, we don’t know why it happened,” said New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who canceled his trip to Israel for the funeral of Shimon Peres in order to survey the wreckage.

The NJ Transit portion of the terminal is closed Friday and rail service to and from Hoboken is suspended, forcing commuters to leave hours earlier than usual, thanks to unpredictable train schedules, and figure out alternate routes to work.

Emergency personnel hard at work today in #hoboken

A video posted by Ray Smith (@raysmith88) on

A number of factors are under investigation, including the condition of the tracks and whether there were signs of mechanical failure. The track lacked the technology that works to automatically stop speeding trains in the event that an engineer doesn’t pull the brake, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. More information on the train’s speed and braking malfunctions could be provided from an event recorder recovered in the rear of the train by the National Transportation Safety Board, according to investigators.

“There is also an event recorder in the cab car, the controlling car, and we’ll be getting that as soon as we can access that,” said T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, vice chair of the National Transportation Safety Board.

“We’re behind in introducing the latest technologies,” said Richard Barone, vice president for Regional Plan Association, an urban planning group based in New York City. “The agencies are undercapitalized.”

A similar incident occurred just five years ago after a PATH train plowed into bumpers at the end of the tracks at the Hoboken station, leaving thirty people injured on Mother’s Day in 2011.