Widespread LIRR Delays After Train Derails in East River Tunnel

The LIRR train headed to Hempstead derailed shortly after pulling away from the platform at Penn Station

A Long Island Rail Road train derailed inside an East River tunnel Monday evening, causing frustrating delays and cancellations for commuters at a packed Penn Station during the height of rush hour. 

The MTA said a LIRR train heading to Hempstead derailed shortly after pulling away from Penn Station at about 6 p.m. The first car of the 10-car train derailed completely, while the second car only partially derailed. 

Passenger Tameka Chandler, of Queens, said she was in the eighth of 10 cars. She said when the train got into the tunnel, it started to shake and rock and she could see the car ahead of hers tilted to one side before it derailed.

"It was sideways," she said.

The passengers remained calm, Chandler said.

"People were looking around, but it wasn't chaotic," she said.

It's unclear what caused the derailment. 

None of the 700 people on board was hurt, and firefighters worked to get them off the crippled train, according to the FDNY. Passengers in the last few cars of the derailed train were allowed to get off by walking along the track, according to a LIRR spokesman. Another train pulled up alongside the derailed train to retrieve the rest of the passengers in the first few cars.

The track is currently out of use as authorities try to figure out how to safely move the derailed train, which was blocking one of four river tunnels. There is limited eastbound service, and westbound service into New York City was suspended to allow trains to head east using the three remaining tunnels. 

Delays and cancellations are expected to last into the morning commute, officials said. Customers should check the LIRR website at mta.info/lirr for the latest service status.

Adding to the chaos, some NJ Transit trains were using LIRR track entrances. Amtrak delays of over an hour were being reported at the station. 

As delays persisted and crowds grew inside Penn Station, police at one point shut down entrances and blocked additional people from entering the station. That forced commuters like Diane Worley of Valley Stream to head to the LIRR station at Jamaica, Queens in hopes they could catch a train home from there. 

"I took the E, and that was a disaster," said Worley. "It's been like two hours trying to get home."

She added, "For the amount of money we pay monthly, they can do a lot better."

Other commuters echoed the sentiment. 

"I'm so tired of the delays on the LIRR. I'm stuck," said Francine DeLoca.

While trains were moving eastbound with delays, those heading into Manhattan were out of luck. 

"Bring some shuttle buses," pleaded a Port Jefferson man who only gave his first name, Ronald. "We pay hundreds of dollars a month for the LIRR. Get us into Manhattan."

-- Melissa Russo contributed to this report. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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