Authorities and investigators are still trying to determine what caused a New Jersey Transit train to crash into the Hoboken station Thursday morning, killing one person and injuring more than 100 others. While one of the event recorders from the train has been recovered, the other is located in the front of the train which investigators have been unable reach due to possible structural damage to the building. One of the main questions being asked is if speed safety mechanisms had been installed on the train and if they were working at the time of the accident.
Around 8:45 Thursday morning, a Spring Valley train was approaching the end of the line at the Hoboken station but never slowed down to stop according to passengers and commuters who witnessed the crash. The speed limit for entering the station is 10 mph but the train was going so fast that it flew past the tracks. Four cars crashed through a barrier in the main concourse and wound up landing in the platform area. A portion of the roof began to collapse, as structural pillars were knocked over when the train went through.
A 34-year-old woman who had recently moved to the area from Brazil was fatally injured by falling debris as she was standing on the platform. The injured commuters were taken to two local hospitals as the region went into trauma mode. Doctors were sent to the scene of the train accident to help the injured onsite. The train conductor was taken to the hospital and released. He is cooperating with authorities.
The National Transportation Safety Board is focusing attention now on why the train was traveling at such a high rate of speed and why backup functions did not kick in to slow the train down. The event recorders in the front and rear of the train contain vital information on speed and braking which may help determine if the accident was caused by human error or mechanical failure. With the collapsing roof, made worse by rain over the past two days, the NTSB hopes to be able to access the front recorder and cameras as soon as the area is deemed safe. They expect to be on scene for at least a week to gather information on the crash.
One of the more important aspects of the investigation will be on positive train control and if it played a factor in the accident. Positive train control was designed to slow or stop trains traveling too fast. It is unknown if this feature was on the train that crashed. NJ Transit has other safety precautions in place including an alert for engineers when the train is traveling over a certain speed, and an alarm which sounds when there has been no one at the controls for more than 15-20 seconds and will stop the train if there is no response.
The NJ Transit portion of the Hoboken station remains closed but PATH service is back running in a different area of the station. As a result of the train accident, buses, ferries, and subways expect to be more crowded as commuters try to get into Manhattan. It remains to be seen how long rail service will be affected. The accident has become a reminder that even when what seems like a routine day can turn around as the result of a terrible accident. If you have been injured in a train or railroad accident, call the qualified and skilled attorneys at Finz & Finz, P.C., today.