1 Dead in Crash of NJ Transit Train That Was Traveling at High Speed

Federal authorities are at the scene investigating.

ByABC News
September 29, 2016, 6:16 PM

— -- One woman died, and more than 100 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 this morning, authorities said.

The train crashed through barriers until it hit an interior wall, said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at a press conference. The engineer -- identified by officials as Thomas Gallagher -- was treated an released by from the hospital, according to Christie's office. Gallagher 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. She was identified by the New Jersey State Medical Examiner's Office as Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, 34, of Hoboken.

    "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 NTSB said the canopy of the building fell atop of the controlling car, where the engineer was located, and a contractor will come in to remove parts of the canopy. The NTSB will then be able to investigate the train cars, said NTSB Vice Chairman Bella Dinh-Zarr.

    The part of the terminal used by PATH trains, however, is fine, officials said. PATH service to the station was restored at 3 p.m., in time for the evening commute.

    Currently, investigators can access the locomotive car, located at the end of the train. They hope to pull the event recorder to determine the speed and braking of the train, Dinh-Zarr said. The investigation will last up to 10 days, and the NTSB will issue a report once it determines the probable cause of the accident. Due to the age of the building, there is a concern that the debris contains asbestos, Dinh-Zarr said.

    The train contained three passengers cars and a locomotive, Dinh-Zarr said.

    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.

    The Hoboken University Medical Center received a total of 23 patients, a spokesman said. By 4 p.m., two surgeries had been performed, while another patient remained in surgery.

    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, NY, 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.

    People are treated for their injuries outside after a NJ Transit train crashed in to the platform at Hoboken Terminal, Sept. 29, 2016, in Hoboken, New Jersey.
    Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

    The Hoboken Terminal was evacuated and all service there was suspended, including both 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.”

    Passengers rush to safety after a NJ Transit train crashed in to the platform at the Hoboken Terminal, Sept. 29, 2016, in Hoboken, New Jersey.
    Pancho Bernasconi/Getty Images

    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.

    Passengers rush to safety after a NJ Transit train crashed in to the platform at the Hoboken Terminal Sept. 29, 2016, in Hoboken, New Jersey.
    Pancho Bernasconi/Getty Images
    People are treated for their injuries outside after a NJ Transit train crashed in to the platform at Hoboken Terminal Sept. 29, 2016 in Hoboken, New Jersey.
    Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

    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.

    Emergency workers arrive at New Jersey Transit's rail station in Hoboken, New Jersey, Sept. 29, 2016.
    Kena Betncur/AFP/Getty Images

    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.

    Train personnel survey the NJ Transit train that crashed in to the platform at the Hoboken Terminal Sept. 29, 2016 in Hoboken, New Jersey.
    Pancho Bernasconi/Getty Images

    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.

    A prior 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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