A piece of metal on the tracks caused a subway train to stall out for more than an hour Thursday, sending smoke into cars and a station, causing panic among stranded straphangers and mucking up the commute home for thousands of other New Yorkers.
The MTA said the metal was across the tracks in the Clark Street tube just past the Wall Street stop when it was hit by a Brooklyn-bound 2 train shortly before 5 p.m. The impact left straphangers on the car stranded for about 90 minutes and stopped 2 and 3 trains from running from Manhattan to Brooklyn for much of the evening rush.
"We are working to determine how it got there," the MTA said of the hunk of metal in a tweet. "Thank you New York for your continuing patience while we work to address and improve subway performance."
Sara Frazier, an editor who lives in Brooklyn, said she was riding in the first car and looking out the front window of the 2 train with her daughter when they heard a blast, saw sparks and felt a bump in quick succession before it came to a stop.
"Everybody was like, 'Whoah!'" she said, adding that she smelled smoke afterward.
The train's conductor got out of his control booth and walked around the car to see what had happened, Frazier said. When he got back into the car, she could hear him arguing with dispatch about what to do next and acknowledging an "explosion."
Frazier said about 45 minutes later the conductor decided to try to continue on to Clark Street in Brooklyn. That's when she and others heard a louder boom and saw 10-foot flames flare up between the first and second cars.
"It was a wall of orange," she said. "You couldn't see anything but orange. The flames shot up and a few seconds later they went down."
Frazier, her daughter and other commuters then waited another 45 minutes for a rescue train to come, and they had to walk back through both to the Wall Street station's platform. She said that while walking through, several firefighters were responding to the scene and that the second and third cars of the train were smoky.
Several other passengers on the disabled train also referred to the impact as an explosion in tweets to the MTA.
Another commuter said she heard an announcement on a different train about a blast, but the MTA said in a response that it was a track condition.
Trains got running normally again about 7:30 p.m., according to the MTA. No injuries were reported.
Thursday's mishap comes about a month after commuters mistook a track fire on the Upper West Side for a terror attack.