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
Two MTA supervisors have been suspended over Tuesday's subway derailment in Harlem, a collision that forced hundreds of panicked riders to flee through darkened tunnels and crippled the transit system for the day.
The development comes hours after MTA officials said the derailment outside the 125th Street station was caused by human error -- specifically an "improperly secured piece of replacement rail" that was stored on the tracks.
Beth DeFalco, an MTA spokeswoman, said in a statement that the two supervisors who had been suspended were responsible for overseeing the track work. They are suspended without pay pending a formal review process.
[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."
Union chief John Samuelsen said at a Wednesday afternoon news briefing that MTA policy and protocol should also be reviewed. For example, officials should look at whether the hammer and spike system in place to secure replacement rail is sufficient to ensure safety, he said.
Samuelsen also said maintenance crews are stretched thin "moreso than any time in 25 years," and that additional resources need to be poured into maintenance immediately.
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.
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.
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.
Shout out to the MTA for making me late for work. Train lost power in between the tunnel and 125th street. Just flat out stopped running, Ac went off, lights went off, and everyone riding was left confused. Thank goodness the conductors on board let us out after a few minutes of waiting. A very special shoutout to Gov Cuomo who spends his time avoiding accountability instead of actually doing something about the subway system.
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.