New York City

Subway Derailment Caused by Human Error, Not a Track Defect: MTA

Service on the four subway lines affected by the derailment had resumed by Wednesday morning

What to Know

  • Preliminary investigation shows Tuesday's subway train derailment was caused by "an improperly secured piece of replacement rail," MTA says
  • At least 34 people had injuries including smoke inhalation, though all were expected to be OK, fire officials said
  • Photos posted to social media show passengers walking along the tracks in a dark subway tunnel, using their phone flashlights as a guide

A subway train in Manhattan that derailed Tuesday as it entered a station, tossing people to the floor and forcing hundreds of shaken-up passengers to exit through darkened tunnels is being blamed on human error, not a track defect, New York City transit officials say.

A preliminary investigation indicates the derailment was caused by an "improperly secured piece of replacement rail" that was stored on the tracks, the MTA said.

[NATL-NY] In Pictures: Panic on the Subway as Smoke Fills Station

"Storing equipment in between tracks is a common practice employed by railroads across the country to accelerate rail repairs," the MTA said in a statement late Tuesday. "The key to this being an effective and safe practice is making sure that the extra equipment is properly bolted down, which does not appear to have happened in this case."

The MTA said crews are inspecting "every inch of rail" to ensure that every replacement part "is properly stored and secured." 

The subway derailment is the latest in a series of frustrating infrastructure issues, and now the new man in charge, MTA chair Joe Lhota, is taking tough questions about it. Andrew Siff reports.

Meanwhile, service had resumed on the four subway lines affected by Tuesday's derailment by about 9:15 a.m. Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the accident that injured 34 people. About half of the victims were taken to hospitals while others were assessed at the scene; all injuries were minor.

A subway derailment and power outage near the 125th Street station in Harlem suspended service on multiple train lines Tuesday, stranding terrified riders in darkened, smoke-filled cars for two hours in some cases. Jen Maxfield reports.

Photos posted to social media show passengers walking along the tracks in a dark subway tunnel, using their phone flashlights as a guide. Firefighters are seen illuminating the way. The MTA urged stranded riders on other trains not to get off their subways and to wait for directions from crew.

A train derailment threw commuters into darkness on the subway in Harlem Tuesday morning, prompting an evacuation. Jen Maxfield reports.

The derailment caused significant damage to the track, switch system and tunnel, dramatic photos released by the union showed. 

Gov. Cuomo called the derailment "an unacceptable manifestation of the system's current state."

"It is my expectation that with new leadership brought by Joe Lhota, the MTA will address the fundamental issues plaguing the transit system and overhaul the organizational structure of the MTA," Cuomo said.

Pregnant women, children and families were the first rescued by FDNY from a train trapped underground after a train derailment Tuesday morning.

The derailment spoiled what should've been a bright day for the system, coming roughly two hours before the reopening of a subway station at the southern tip of Manhattan that had been closed since it was flooded by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. The South Ferry station on the No. 1 line reopened after $340 million worth of repairs.

The derailment comes amid a series of breakdowns, signal failures and other issues that have left straphangers at their breaking point. On Monday, the subway rider whose horrifying account of being stuck on a sweltering, powerless train earlier this month went viral held a news briefing to demand the MTA outline an evacuation procedure for riders who may get stranded in the future.

It also comes less than two weeks before the start of Amtrak's summer-long work to repair aging infrastructure at New York Penn Station, a project that is expected to increase subway volume as commuters seek alternatives.

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