HOBOKEN • A New Jersey Transit train derailed and ploughed into one of the busiest stations in the metropolitan area during the morning rush hour yesterday, killing at least three people.
Dramatic pictures posted by commuters showed a train carriage that appeared to have smashed right through the concourse of the Hoboken station in New Jersey, causing a section of the roof to collapse, scattering debris and wreckage and causing devastation. The train came to a halt in a covered area between the station's indoor waiting area and the platform, according to the Associated Press.
"We have 100-plus injuries," New Jersey Transit spokesman Jennifer Nelson told reporters at the scene, adding that there were "multiple critical injuries".
NBC and CBS reported three fatalities. No official toll was immediately available.
Hoboken lies on the west bank of the Hudson River across from New York City. Its station is used by many commuters travelling into Manhattan from New Jersey and further afield.
Mr Michael Larson, a New Jersey Transit employee, told CNN that the train hit a concrete block at the end of the line with such force that it became airborne.
"It simply did not stop," radio station anchor John Minko, who witnessed the crash, told the 1010 WINS radio news station. "It went right through the barriers and into the reception area."
Ms Linda Albelli, 62, said she had been sitting in one of the rear cars when the train, No. 1614 on the Pascack Valley line, approached the station at full throttle.
The train had five or six carriages, she added, describing a post-calamity scene of how passengers helped one another get off the train.
"When we got on the platform there was nowhere to go. The ceiling had come down," she said.
Another passenger, Mr Bhagyesh Shah, told NBC New York that the crash "was for a couple of seconds, but it felt like an eternity".
"I saw a woman pinned under concrete. A lot of people were bleeding, one guy was crying," he said.
Most of those injured were in the first car or standing on the platform; passengers in the other cars were better able to escape, according to WABC.
One woman who was in the first car of the runaway train told reporters that the impact of the crash had sent her falling over other passengers.
Mr William Blaine, a driver who operates the same type of train that crashed and was at the station at the time of the incident, said that judging by the damage, the train must have been travelling at 50kmh at least, The Telegraph reported.
Mr Blaine said he believed the train driver might have suffered a heart attack or passed out, adding that there was an emergency override system but it took 60 seconds to engage.
Preliminary reports suggested the crash was accidental or caused by human error, according to law enforcement officials.
The Federal Railroad Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have dispatched investigation teams.
New Jersey Transit officials said there was no initial sign of terrorism.
Rail services have been suspended in and out of Hoboken. An average of 60,000 people travel through the terminal every weekday, making it one of the busiest transportation hubs in the New York region.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST