By Ben Fractenberg, Michael Ventura and Nicole Bode
MIDTOWN — A Metro-North train derailed on the tracks just minutes after departing Grand Central Terminal Monday evening, leaving hundreds of passengers trapped inside the steamy cars for more than an hour, but sparing all those aboard from major injury, officials and witnesses said.
The Metro-North Hudson Line train bound for Croton-Harmon derailed appriximately five minutes after departing Grand Central Terminal at 6 p.m., according to MTA spokesman Salvatore Arena.
One of the wheels on the second car of the six-car train slid off the tracks beneath Park Avenue near 56th street. It was not immediately clear what caused the wheel to slip, Arena said.
Pregnant passenger Rachel Lamagna, 30, who's 38 weeks pregnant, said the oppressive heat, long wait, and enclosed space made her anxious.
"I was getting nervous. I didn't want to deliver on the train," Lamagna said.
Lamagna said she was on the train for an hour without water, but added that emergency crews were very helpful when they arrived, bringing her water and evacuating her and another pregnant woman first.
Passenger Dimitri Samaras, 57, said, "we heard a big bang. some poeple thought it was a big explosion."
Samaras, who was headed for Dobbs Ferry, said passengers were initially told that there was a mechanical failure, then were told an hour later that there was a derailment. He was evacuated after an hour and 20 minutes, and other people were following after him.
He said the Fire Department showed up shortly thereafter, placed a ladder against one of the doors, and had passengers climb down the ladder onto the tracks, and then they climbed up a stairwell to the street and emerged at 56th and Park.
He said the train lights stayed on, but the air conditioning stopped quickly, leaving the
"It's pretty scary, you don't know if it's a bomb."
Paul Browne, a spokesman for the NYPD, said officials cut the power to the tracks for safety reasons, "and with that, went the A/C."
Emergency crews pulled up an additional train beside the derailed train and set up a plank between the doors to let those trapped aboard evacuate through the second train, said an ESU worker at the scene.
Firefighters used a conductor's key to open the doors of the first car, and escorted passengers to an emergency exit two blocks south of the derailment, Browne said.
The second car appeared to be tilted to the left, and passengers reported seeing sparks, Browne said.
Users took to Twitter to describe their harrowing saga.
"Young woman w baby helped down to tracks by cops. No sign of that diesel they said was getting in 5m about 20m ago," wrote Twitter user @misif. "This is no longer fun. Some older or less fit people having panic attacks about exiting the train mid tunnel."