19 Injured When F Train Derails in Queens, Officials Say
QUEENS — A Manhattan-bound F train derailed just south of the 65th Street station in Woodside Friday morning, sending four passengers to area hospitals and causing minor injuries to 19 others, officials said.
The express train, which had 1,000 straphangers on board, had passed through the station at 65th Street and Broadway when it derailed about 10:30 a.m., sending six of its eight cars off the rails, MTA CEO Tom Prendergast said, adding that the cause of the derailment was still under investigation.
"It started shaking violently. Suddenly it just braked really hard. A lot of people were crying," said Matt Kennedy, 20, who was traveling to Williamsburg.
Emergency crews boarded each car to help keep passengers calm, officials said. They eventually evacuated them by walking them through dust filled tunnels to a pair of ladders located between subway stations just south of the 65th Street station, and directed them to climb up to an emergency grate in the sidewalk, passengers and the MTA said.
"They led through the cars and took us out the back onto the tracks. They had shut the power off by that point," said Arnie Zambrano, 32, of Kew Gardens.
"They had a ladder and helped everyone on. The fire department had flashlights. You'd think it was gritty and dark, but it wasn't bad at all. It was a pretty sturdy ladder and it led us outside through an open grate. We just came up from the ground between stops," Zambrano added.
All passengers were evacuated within an hour of the derailment, MTA officials said.
Transit officials said they would restore local service to the Broadway line by the evening rush hour adding that crews planned to work through the weekend to restore full service by Monday, Prendergast said.
He added that the derailed cars would remain on the express track preventing any express service along the corridor during the Friday evening rush.
"It will impact rush hour capacity, but we will be able to run trains, which is exceptionally important," the transit president said.
The original Queens Boulevard line was built in the 1930s, but all the track has been replaced at least once since the early 1980s.
The cause of the accident is still under investigation, Prendergast said. The last subway train derailment was last year, May 29, 2013, Prendergast said.
"We run 8,000 trains a day," he said. "The system is very safe."
Queens Senator Michael Gianaris blasted the MTA, calling the accident "unacceptable."
"Every New Yorker should feel safe on the subway," he said, "and I hope the MTA will immediately conduct an investigation to find out how this happened as well as a full safety review of this and any other train line that may pose a risk of derailment."
A Manhattan-bound E train stuck behind the derailed F was also evacuated about an hour after the accident, an MTA spokeswoman said. The train was towed back to Queens Plaza, MTA officials said.
Though the injuries were minor, the incident still left some passengers rattled.
Angela Forbes, 56, of Jamaica, was on her way to Manhattan, riding in the second car when the F train came to a sudden halt.
"I remember the moment of impact. All of the sudden, it felt like the train hit something and you heard this screeching sound," she recalled. "There were sparks and smoke coming into the car."
The initial reaction was anything but calm, she said.
"Everyone went into a panic. People were screaming and crying. It was surreal," Forbes said. "You watch Pelham 1, 2, 3 and all these movies and you'd never think you'd be part of this. It was an experience I couldn't forget."
Irvelle Cadet, 24 of Jamaica, started feeling turbulence between the Roosevelt and 65th Street stations.
"It started a little bumpy, but then it got worse," said Cadet, who was on her way to an interview in Brooklyn. "We felt like we were bouncing out of our seats."
She said when crews evacuated passengers they walked through the train cars, including the derailed cars, which tilted to one side.
"It was a serious tilt," she said.
Ididia Nisanov, 17, who was en route to Rockefeller Center, said she saw sparks fly during the derailment.
"Boom! We flew off, fire, sparks and smoke. Smoke was everywhere," said Nisanov.
Lydia Wong, 66, who was on her way to Chinatown from Forest Hills, said thick smoke poured into her car, choking her.
"The train stopped moving and then smoke was inside. I had trouble breathing," said Wong.
Riders said the train's crew acted quickly to keep passengers calm, explaining to them what had happened and how they would leave the tunnel.
"They handled it professionally and quickly. It was a little shocking and unnerving. The conductor came out and explained. They didn't try to hide anything," said La Troya Dawson, 29.
The fire department said the passengers remained calm throughout the ordeal and allowed rescuers to swiftly evacuate all the trains in about two hours.
"Of course we give the passengers credit," FDNY Assistant Chief James Leonard. "This is New York."
To accommodate commuters while service is restored, shuttle buses will take passenger between Forest-Hills-71 Ave and Queens Plaza and between Forest Hills-71 Ave and 21st St-Queensbridge. Straphangers can also take the 7 train as an alternate route.
Weekend work scheduled on the 7 and J lines has been postpone to accommodate passengers.
Riders were directed to check www.mta.info for updates about train service.
Jeanmarie Evelly, Rosa Goldensohn and Trevor Kapp contributed reporting.