LIRR Train Was Going More Than Twice Speed Limit at Time of Crash; Engineer Doesn't Recall Crash: NTSB

And a passenger has filed a $5 million notice of claim

What to Know

  • A Long Island Rail Road train derailed at track 6 at Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal at the height of Wednesday's morning rush
  • 103 people were hurt, though fire officials said their injuries were considered minor; some were taken to hospitals for evaluation
  • The NTSB says the train appeared to be going more than twice the speed limit when it crashed, and the engineer doesn't recall the crash

The Long Island Rail Road train that derailed at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn Wednesday morning was traveling at more than twice the speed limit when it slammed into a bumper at the end of the tracks, federal investigators said Thursday. 

More than 100 people suffered minor injuries when the train from Far Rockaway in Queens hit a bumping block at the end of a track and smashed into a small structure, believed to be a work area, at about 8:30 a.m.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Ted Turpin said in a news briefing Thursday that they believe the train was going more than 10 mph when it hit the bumper. The track speed limit is 5 mph. 

Investigators have spoken with the 50-year-old train engineer, who said he was unable to recall hitting the bumper, Turpin said.

"He does recall entering into the station and controlling the speed of the train," Turpin said. "But the next thing he realized was after the collision." 

The engineer joined the LIRR in 1999 and has been an engineer since 2000, the official said. He's been working nights for about almost 12 years, and has been on this particular night shift route for the last year.

The engineer had been off for three days and this was his first trip back on the job after his break, Turpin said. He went on duty sometime after midnight, and had made several trips back and forth into Atlantic Terminal. It's believed he had one more trip back to Jamaica to make before the end of his shift, according to Turpin. 

The engineer told investigators he was not on his cellphone at the time of the crash; officials will subpoena his cellphone records to verify that. 

The engineer has been cooperative with investigators, the NTSB official said. NTSB investigators are continuing to collect data and conduct interviews, including with the conductor, assistant conductor, and two other employees who witnessed the crash from the track. 

Meanwhile, four of the six cars from the crashed LIRR train have been removed from the track at Atlantic Terminal. The first car -- the one that crashed -- has been a "challenge" to remove, and it was unclear when that would be taken. 

An NTSB spokesman earlier said the train's engineer has undergone drug testing. Results of those tests aren't known yet.

Also Thursday, high-profile attorney Sanford Rubenstein announced that he's filed the first notice of claim on behalf of a victim in the LIRR derailment. He said in a press release Thursday that he intends to file a $5 million lawsuit for his client, Clifford Jones of Queens, who was sitting in the last of six cars. 

Jones happened to speak to NBC 4 New York from the scene immediately after the crash Wednesday and said he was hurt in "my head, my side, stuff like that," adding they were "shaken up." 

The notice of claim states Jones was "seriously injured" and accuses the MTA and LIRR of negligence and carelessness. The man is seeking $5 million for injuries to the knee, shoulder, neck and back, along with "psychological injuries" and "emotional trauma," according to the notice of claim. 

Officials said about 100 people were treated for minor injuries after the crash, the most serious of which was a broken leg. Many of those people had been standing as they prepared to get off the train at the last stop.

“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," FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief Daniel Donoghue said. "A rail actually pierced the bottom of the train, it was fortunate we didn’t have more severe injuries."

Donoghue said first responders faced a difficult task, with about 430 people packed on the derailed train.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, "Luckily ... all things considered, this was a relatively minor accident," said Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

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.

The terminal is beneath a shopping mall in downtown Brooklyn, next to the Barclays Center, home to Brooklyn Nets basketball, New York Islanders hockey and major concerts.

A similar accident in nearby Hoboken, New Jersey, in September was much worse. There, a New Jersey Transit commuter train plowed off the end of a track, killing a woman standing in the station. Federal investigators are examining whether a more modern bumper or other barriers could have made a difference.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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