1 dead in crash of NJ Transit train that was traveling at high speed

HOBOKEN, N.J. (ABC News) – One woman died, and 108 were injured, some seriously, when a NJ Transit commuter train carrying 250 people and traveling at a high speed crashed into Hoboken’s historic train station at about 8:45 a.m. this morning, authorities said.

The train came in fast and crashed through barriers until it hit an interior wall, said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at a press conference. The engineer who was operating the train is hospitalized with critical injuries and is cooperating with law enforcement investigating the crash, Christie said.

The woman who died was not a passenger on the train but was killed by debris that fell onto the platform after the train crashed into it, Christie said.

“We know what happened,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, referring to the train’s speed. “We don’t know why it happened.”

The historic Hoboken Terminal has structural damage and officials have no estimate on when the NJ Transit section of the station will reopen, Christie said.

The part of the terminal used by PATH trains however is fine and should be able to reopen.

Both governors applauded the emergency responders and civilians who assisted rescue efforts, evacuating the train as quickly as possible and helping the injured get medical care.

Witnesses described a scene of horror, with one NJ Transit worker who saw the crash saying the train hit the edge of the station platform so hard that it flew up onto the platform and didn’t stop until it ran into the wall of the station’s waiting room.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” NJ Transit worker Michael Larson told ABC News station WABC.

All of the injured are receiving care at local hospitals, Christie said. One area trauma center, the Jersey City Medical Center, reported earlier in the day Thursday that it was treating three people who sustained critical or serious injuries in the crash.

Dozens of people are being evaluated or treated at various area hospitals.

The train, on NJ Transit’s Pascack Valley line, started in Spring Valley, New York, at 7:23 a.m. Eastern time, with a scheduled arrival in Hoboken of 8:38 a.m. It struck the terminal building on track 5 at approximately 8:45 a.m, according to NJ Transit.

Both the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Railway Administration are investigating the crash. As is standard, investigators will be looking at all possible causes, including human failure and mechanical problems; they will also look at the possibility of sabotage or foul play, although they suspect neither, officials said.

(YouTube Credit: Benjamin Fairclough)

The Hoboken Terminal was evacuated and all service there was suspended, including boht NJ Transit and PATH train service.

“There is heavy structural damage to the terminal, which is why it was evacuated,” said Jennifer Nelson, the director of media relations for NJ Transit. “It is not safe to go in there right now.”

Corey Futterman was riding in one of the last cars of the train and was not injured. He told ABC News that this was “something I’ve never seen before.”

“We had just left Secaucus, and that’s where about half or, if not, more than half of the train gets off the car to transfer to New York. We were approaching Hoboken, and the train did not seem to be slowing down whatsoever, and then all of a sudden, everything just crashed and shook,” he said.

William Blaine, who said he is a freight engineer and was in the Hoboken Terminal near the track where the crash happened, estimated that the train may have been going 30 or more miles per hour, when it should have been going half that speed as it approached the station.

“I just heard kaboom, and everything just went down,” he said. “Your body just shook. I swear, it sounded like a bomb. And I am sure that’s probably what people were thinking, because this is what it sounded like.”

Blaine told ABC News he guessed the train may have been traveling at “30 to 40 miles per hour” when it struck the station platform.

NJ Transit’s Larson said he was standing about 30 feet away when he saw the train coming into the station “at a high rate of speed.”

“It went over the bumper block [at the edge of the platform], basically through the air, traveled about another 40 feet and came to a rest when it hit the wall of the waiting room,” he said. “It was initially just a horrendous, horrendous exploding noise.”

He said he was among those who rushed over to help passengers. The first car sustained the worst damage, he said.

“There were a lot of people kicking out windows trying to exit the train,” Larson said. “The second half of the first car was completely destroyed, to where they were crawling on their hands and knees” to try to exit, he said.

Passengers in cars farther back were able to walk off the train, officials said. The train’s engineer is among those hospitalized.

Hoboken Terminal is a hub for commuters switching from NJ Transit trains to PATH trains into Manhattan. It is NJ Transit’s fifth-busiest station, with 15,000 people boarding there weekdays, according to the The Associated Press.

An accident at the same station in 2011 injured more than 30 people in 2011 after a PATH train crashed into bumpers at the end of the tracks, The AP reported.

ABC News’ Joyce Alcantara, Gio Benitez, Lisa Fisher, Troy McMullen, Nadeen Shaker and Phaedra Singelis contributed to this report.

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