NEW YORK -- At least four people died and 63 were injured, some of them critically, after seven cars of a passenger train flew off the tracks in New York City on its way into Grand Central Terminal, authorities said.
Police boats were scouring the Harlem River off the Bronx about three hours after the 7:20 a.m. EST derailment, but Metro-North officials said they believed everyone aboard the train, which was heading to Manhattan from Poughkeepsie, was accounted for.
Fire officials told reporters at the scene that three of the four people who died were found outside the train and appeared to have been hurled from it when it left the tracks.
At a news briefing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Tom Prendergast, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said officials of the National Transportation Safety Board were en route to the scene just south of the Spuyten Duyvil station.
“In terms of causes, we don’t know exactly what happened,” Cuomo said.
Prendergast said all seven cars of the train, which were being pushed by a locomotive, derailed. The train’s operator was among those injured, but the extent of his injuries was not immediately known.
One passenger told the New York Daily News that the train appeared to be traveling at a very high rate of speed when it derailed. “We left the Tarrytown stop, the next stop was 125 St. The driver was going around the curve really fast. Next thing you know (we’re) in middle of a wreckage,” the passenger, Dianna Jackson, told the News.
Jackson said she landed on a shattered window on the side of the train car that hit the ground.
“I was lying on my back, gravel was flying everywhere. I was dragging along the ground. ... Maybe it was a minute, it felt like an eternity, I just wanted it to stop. ... I had gravel in my teeth, I was eating rocks. But I was grateful to be eating rocks because I’m still alive.”
Passenger Peter Stillman told the Riverdale Press that he was asleep when the crash occurred. “I was awakened by a jolt and a crushing grinding sound. Then my head was smashed up against the back of my chair, and then we stopped,” said Stillman, who was not injured.
Amanda Swanson was on her way to work in Manhattan when the train derailed.
“All of a sudden, the train felt a little more sideways than it should be,” she told WABC-TV. Swanson described “rubble flying at my face,” but she said nobody in her car was injured.
“I was in a lucky, lucky car,” she said.
[Updated 8:45 a.m. PST, Dec. 1: A White House official said President Obama was briefed shortly after the derailment by Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism.
“The President will continue to be updated as new information becomes available,” the official said. “His thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and families who lost a loved one and everyone affected by this incident. The White House will continue to stay in contact with the federal, state and local partners as they respond to this event.”]