'Total chaos': 100 hurt in LIRR train crash in Brooklyn

© Drew Angerer, Getty Images. Authorities carry an injured person away from Atlantic Terminal in New York on January 4, 2017.
'Total chaos': 100 hurt in LIRR train crash in Brooklyn

More than 100 people were injured Wednesday when a Long Island Rail Road train crashed through a bumper at the end of the line during morning rush, authorities said.

The most severe injury appeared to be a possible broken leg; no injuries were life-threatening, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. He said Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal suffered minor damage, but the afternoon commute would not be affected.

"A broken leg is not good, but we've been through situations where we've had worse," Cuomo said.

FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief Daniel Donoghue said more than 600 people were on the train when it smashed through the last bumper and crashed into a small room at the end of the track. He put the injury total at 76; the Fire Department later tweeted that 103 people were hurt.

"We were fortunate we didn't have more severe injuries," Donoghue said. "When we got there, there were a lot of people that needed help."

Cuomo said the train only overshot its stopping zone by a few feet and didn't derail until it hit the bumper. Most of the passengers were able to exit the train and walk away, he said.

“I was getting up from my seat and there was a loud impact, and I flew forward and then flew backward,” a passenger named Amanda told CBS2. “It was total chaos, there was smoke on the train, and we were sitting there in shock.”

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a go-team to New York to begin an investigation. The crash comes three months after a New Jersey Transit train slammed through the Hoboken Terminal, killing one woman on the platform and injuring 114 people on the train.

The NTSB has yet to announce its findings on that crash. Jack Arseneault , lawyer for train engineer Thomas Gallagher, has said his client "very likely suffers from sleep apnea" that could have been a factor.

Cuomo said the accident Wednesday was not nearly as serious.

"That train was coming in much faster, caused much more damage and hurt many more people," Cuomo said. "All things considered, this (crash Wednesday) was a relatively minor accident."

LIRR, part of New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority, claims on its website to be the busiest railroad in North America. Its 735 weekday trains transport about 265,000 customers on 700 miles of track. Its reach stretches 120 miles from Montauk on Long Island's eastern tip to Penn Station in Manhattan and Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn.

LIRR train slams into Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, injuring 103 passengers

A Long Island Rail Road train overshot its platform and plowed into a bumper block, injuring more than 100 rush hour commuters Wednesday at the Atlantic Terminal.

The train from Far Rockaway was arriving at the Brooklyn transit hub around 8:20 a.m. when it slammed into the block at the end of the track — reminiscent of  September’s fatal Hoboken station crash.

Attorney Howard Strongin was riding in the front car when he was sent flying as the quiet morning ride turned to instant chaos.

A rail sliced up through the floor of the train, lifting the wheels of one car into the air.

“There was this loud crashing sound and everyone was knocked over,” said Strongin, 58, of Woodmere, L.I. “You could feel the car tilting up. There was a lot of crying and screaming.”

Authorities reported there were 103 mostly minor injuries among the 650 riders, with the most seriously injured suffering a broken leg, authorities said.

“It looked like slow motion,” said eyewitness Steve Miller, 46, of Brooklyn, who was sitting aboard another train. “It was a long crash, and then the whole place filled up with smoke and dust.”

Miller said he and other passengers quickly came to the aid of the panicked LIRR riders. The derailment caused severe damage to the front two cars, and most of the passengers were able to self-evacuate, said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.

The number of injuries was limited because the train was only traveling at 10 to 15 mph at the time of impact, officials said.

“People that were standing pretty much all fell to the floor,” said rider Aaron Neufeld, 26. “Bags went flying. People who were sitting got jolted into the seats in front of them.”

The National Transportation Safety Board dispatched a team to Brooklyn to determine what caused the wreck. But Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Tom Prendergast said human error was likely to blame.

“At that speed, it’s pretty much the locomotive engineer’s responsibility to stop the train,” said Prendergast.

Passenger Daniel Alvarez, 49, of Long Island, said the morning ride was routine until the very end — when commuters started toppling like dominoes.

“The train was rolling into the station as usual,” he recounted. “It was packed, so everyone was standing up. Then all of a sudden, a huge crash. Talk about hitting a brick wall!

“It ran into one of the bumpers and jolted up,” he said. “Everyone in the train just went flying. I fell into a woman and she fell into someone else.”

He said he saw people with gashes from the impact, and other commuters taken out on stretchers.

The victims were taken to Brooklyn Hospital, Kings County Hospital and Methodist Hospital.

Deputy Assistant Chief Daniel F. Donoghue of the FDNY said the train smashed through the bumper block and into a small room at the end of the track, which was heavily damaged.

“It actually hit that wall pretty hard,” Donoghue said. “That room sustained quite a bit of damage.”

Donoghue said it was fortunate the train stopped where it did.

“It could have been quite a bit worse without a doubt,” Donoghue said. “We were lucky we didn't have more severe injuries.”

By noon, the LIRR tweeted that train service was operating on or close to schedule both in and out of Atlantic Terminal.

The engineer, conductor and brakeman are being interviewed, said MTA head Tom Prendergast.

Gov. Cuomo brushed aside comparisons to the fatal Sept. 29 crash in Hoboken, when an NJ Transit train crashed through a barrier. One person died and more than 100 were injured in that crash.

“There was extensive damage in Hoboken,” Cuomo said. “That train was coming in much faster. This is minor compared to what happened in Hoboken. The question is why didn’t the operator stop the train.”

Shaken commuters posted photos of emergency workers responding to the scene online.

“Lots of police and fire at Atlantic,” one person wrote on Twitter. “Looks like a LIRR train didn't stop at the end of the platform.”

Another person posted, “Atlantic Avenue Terminal is insane right now because of the passenger train derailment.”

The MTA said the derailment was causing traffic and transit delays and road closures near Atlantic and Flatbush Aves.

“Anticipate possible delays into and out of Atlantic Terminal this morning due to an incident at the terminal,” the MTA posted on Twitter.

Cops shut down the entire block around Barclays Center.

“An incident,” wrote another person on Twitter. “What you really mean is your train crashed into the wall!”

LIRR Train Derails in Brooklyn; 103 People Hurt

A Long Island Rail Road train derailed at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn at the height of Wednesday's morning rush, injuring more than 100 people and riddling the track area with shattered glass and debris.

Officials say 103 people were hurt when the six-car train from Far Rockaway struck the bumping block at the terminal's track 6 around 8:30 a.m. The train went up and over the block; the impact knocked the wheels of the first car and one other axle off the rails, MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast said at the scene.

"Obviously the train is supposed to stop short of the bumping block," Prendergast, who days ago announced his intent to retire in the upcoming weeks, said. "It did not do that."

The train was likely coming in at a fairly low rate of speed -- the posted speed limit on approach to the terminal is 5 mph, according to officials -- at the time of the crash, Gov. Cuomo said. Many riders were standing, prepared to get off, at the time of the derailment. Several passengers complained of neck and back injuries after the accident. Some people were carried away on stretchers; others were sitting outside the train holding ice packs to their heads.

"This is a relatively minor accident," Cuomo said. "Luckily ... all things considered, this was a relatively minor accident."

Mayor de Blasio was at an NYPD crime statistics briefing and did not appear at the crash site. About three hours after the crash, his office tweeted, "Our thoughts are w/ all aboard this morning’s LIRR derailment."

Cuomo and Prendergast said investigators quickly spoke to the train operator to begin understanding why he didn't stop and how he wound up driving over the bumping block. Authorities are also expected to interview the conductor and brakeman, as is customary.

Asked if the operator was driving too fast, Prendergast said, "It's too early to tell."

The NTSB tweeted investigators were en route to the scene, and the Federal Railroad Administration confirmed as well that federal investigators were en route.
Pictures on social media showed the train tipped slightly at an angle. The platform also appeared to be smoky as emergency personnel flooded the scene.
NTSB is sending a go-team to NYC today to begin an investigation into this morning's accident there involving the Long Island Railroad.

FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief Daniel Donoghue said first responders faced a difficult task, with about 430 people packed on the derailed train.

“When we got here a lot of people had fallen because the train actually went through the final bumper and went through a small room in the area at the end of the track," Donoghue said. "A rail actually pierced the bottom of the train, it was fortunate we didn’t have more severe injuries."

Aerial NYPD photos showed traffic at a virtual standstill outside the terminal all morning amid a massive emergency presence; buses that normally use the area were detoured. But at 11:36 a.m., LIRR tweeted that service was on or close to schedule in and out of Atlantic Terminal.

Passengers described the train pulling into the station, followed by a crash and a loud boom, after which the train's doors opened.

"We just heard this loud boom, and people were thrown," recounted passenger Aaron Neufeld.

"You're shocked, nobody knows what's going on," he said, adding that he saw a woman wailing on the floor as she bled from her face.

Lisa Jackson said, "Next thing I know, I hit my head and my back and I can't remember anything else."
My #LIRR train crashed at #AtlanticTerminal in #Brooklyn. Crazy. Seems only a few people are lightly injured. pic.twitter.com/oXHvy2yxDL

— Aaron D. Neufeld (@Aaron_D_Neufeld) January 4, 2017
NOW: Train Derailment @ the @LIRR Atlantic Terminal / F'bush Ave. Rescue Units on the scene. Minor injuries. Expect traffic/train delays pic.twitter.com/BemGpDzAEh

— NYPD Special Ops (@NYPDSpecialops) January 4, 2017

The derailment comes about four months after an NJ Transit train crashed into the Hoboken Terminal in New Jersey, killing a woman on the platform and injuring about 100 other people.

Cuomo said of the LIRR derailment Wednesday, "This is minor compared to what happened in Hoboken, but the same question: why did the engineer not stop the train?"

A preliminary federal report on the Hoboken crash said the five-car train accelerated from 8 to 21 mph — more than twice the speed limit — as it approached the end of the track Sept. 29, before the emergency brake was engaged in the final second. Engineer Thomas Gallagher, who later was found to be suffering from sleep apnea, told investigators he had no memory of the train speeding up. That investigation is ongoing.

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