Speed Could Be a Factor in Train Derailment, Governor Says
THE BRONX — Officials are trying to determine if speed caused the train derailment that killed four people and injured dozens more in Spuyten Duyvil Sunday morning.
"I think it is going to be speed related. This was a tricky turn on the system, but it's a turn that's been here for decades and trains negotiate all day long. So it's not about the turn. I think it's going to turn out to be about the speed more than anything and the operator's operation of the train at that time," Gov. Andrew Cuomo told NBC Monday morning.
Crews had already used cranes to put the locomotive back onto the tracks and were in the process Monday of righting the six carriages that also derailed just north of the Spuyten Duyvil station, an MTA spokeswoman said.
Investigators said that while speeding may have caused the crash, they are also looking at many other factors and have yet to make an official determination.
"The speed, brake applications, throttle settings will come from the event recorders," said National Transportation Safety Board member Earl Weener.
"It's just a matter of an awful lot of work that's going to go into this investigation before we are really able to say, 'Here's what happened and why.'"
Along with the four people who died, dozens were injured and taken to area hospitals where at least 21 were still being treated Monday while friends and family learned about the horrors their loved ones experienced.
Caroline Budinich, a 21-year-old SUNY New Paltz student, was heading into the city to visit her boyfriend when she was flung out of the train and dragged for feet, according to her mother, Chris Duran.
"She said it was going too fast," the distressed mother said. "She's in a lot of pain, that's all I can say. She's not doing well at all."
After gravel mangled her hand and leg, damaged her tendons, and dislocated her leg, Budinich told her mother that another person landed on top of her.
"It's not something a mom wants to hear. She's a hard working girl and she needs her leg," Duran said.
Of the 21 still hospitalized, three people remained in critical condition including a man with spinal injuries at St. Barnabas Hospital, hospital officials said. Others were treated for broken bones, open fractures, contusions, and internal injuries, according to St. Barnabas' Dr. Ernest Patti.
"All are still dealing with the mental anguish and personal tragedy of being in such a horrific accident," Patti said. "It's going to be hard for a lot of these folks to get back in a train immediately after they have recovered."
Those who died included Ahn Kisook, a 35-year-old registered nurse from Queens, who was on her way back to her Woodside home after a night shift at an Ossining nursing home, according to reports and officials.
She had worked for a time at Kings County Hospital, the New York Times reported.
Also killed was James Lovell, a 58-year-old from Cold Spring, who was heading into the city to help set up for the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, according to the Today show.
"Jim was a friendly and welcome presence around here. He was also an enormously talented guy who always did his job with grace even under extreme pressure. He was always working tirelessly with a smile on his face," Matt Lauer said on the show.
Two others, 59-year-old James Ferrari of Montrose, and Donna Smith, 54, of Newburgh, were killed, officials said.
The NTSB has about 20 investigators broken up into four teams scouring the crash site. It could take up to 10 days, Weener said.
A mechanical team would review positioning and conditions of the train's cars, a track team will focus on the railway, a survival factors team will review how passengers and crew were killed and hurt, and a human performance team will interview the train's crew, Weener said.
The MTA wouldn't comment on the work history of the driver at the helm during the crash, a spokeswoman said.
"We're not commenting on any personal information at this time," MTA spokeswoman Marisa Baldeo said.
After they gather enough evidence from the scene, investigators will return to Washington, D.C. to review the evidence.
"That's the point at which we'll look at track records, train maintenance records, personnel records. That's followed by a period of analysis," Weener said.
The NTSB said the full investigation may take up to a year to complete, but if investigators find that infrastructure that's still being used is at fault, the public will be notified immediately.
With reporting by Gustavo Solis and Andrea Swalec.