NEW YORK CITY — A woman was killed and nearly 110 people injured when a train careened off the tracks and smashed through Hoboken NJ Transit rail station during the Thursday morning rush, officials said.
Train 1614 was speeding when it slammed into the end of track 5 and flew into the air, crashing down onto an empty shop at the station about 8:45 a.m., officials said.
The station connects to the PATH train hub that shuttles tens of thousands of passengers into New York City every day.
"We were approaching the station. Everyone was thinking it was going to slow down and it just collided. At first I thought something had exploded," said passenger Jamie Weatherhead-Saul.
Photo courtesy of Jamie Weatherhead-Saul
"There was no warning. Everybody was just stunned. We helped the injured off the train, but everybody was stunned," Weatherhead-Saul said.
A piece of flying debris fatally struck Hoboken resident Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, 34, who was standing on the platform, according to Gov. Chris Christie and the New Jersey Medical Examiner's office.
Christie said 108 people were injured, including the train's engineer who suffered critical injuries.
Between nine and 11 people suffered severe wounds including deep cuts, orthopedic and other internal injuries, none of which are considered life-threatening. They were being treated at Jersey City Medical Center.
Another 40 people were treated at the hospital for "walking injuries," as Joseph Scott, CEO of the Jersey City Medical Center, called them.
Another 22 patients were taken to Hoboken University Medical Center with fractures, lacerations and bruises, Chief Medical Officer Meika Roberson said. All were in stable condition.
In the aftermath, concerned commuters raced through strewn metal beams, wires and rubble toward the wounded to lend a hand. Social media images appeared to show part of the station's roof had collapsed around the train.
"People were crying because it was an especially difficult situation, but everyone came together to help people they didn't even know. There was blood on people's clothing," Weatherhead-Saul said.
Regular riders said the train crashed near a bottleneck in the terminal that's usually packed with people.
"The place where the train hit is probably the worst possible place because it is a choke point where people go down to the PATH train," said Nancy Solomon, a WNYC managing editor who was commuting to Manhattan from Maplewood and arrived at the station seconds after the crash.
"I am there every day and usually surrounded by a few hundred people.
"A lot of bloody people and injured people and it was very clear people were in shock. A lot of people were on phones, probably with family," Solomon said, describing the scene she saw Thursday.
Tom Spina, who was traveling from Larington to Hackensack, was in the station's customer service office when he heard a deafening boom and saw the lights flicker.
"I left the office and saw the train had gone right through the terminal and the roof collapsed. It was not good," said Spina, 52.
"There were many injuries. I can't give a number. I saw folks pretty cut up and limping off the train, unable to walk. Folks were trying to get off the train and folks on the platform were running away from the accident," he added.
Photo courtesy of Jamie Weatherhead-Saul
It wasn't immediately clear what caused the train, which had traveled from Spring Valley, New York, to crash. Governors Christie and Andrew Cuomo both refused to speculate about the cause, but said it appeared to be an accident.
"The train came in at much too high a speed. The question is why is that," Christie said.
"You don't jump to conclusions. You let facts lead you to conclusions."
A safety inspector for NJ Transit who was working nearby at the time said he didn't hear any screech of brakes beforehand.
"I don't think it was brake failure. It stopped a ton of times before it got here, but it didn't stop this time. If it was brake failure, it would've happened at the start, not at the end," said the inspector, Rick Ciappa.
NJ Transit did not immediately provide further information about the crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board dispatched teams to begin its investigation into the crash.
NTSB sending Go Team to investigate Hoboken train crash.— NTSB_Newsroom (@NTSB_Newsroom) September 29, 2016
New Jersey's Office of Emergency Management sent units from its emergency response bureau as well as its urban search and rescue team, a spokeswoman said.
New York City officials dispatched 10 ambulances and has directed its Office of Emergency Management to coordinate with its counterparts across the Hudson, they said.
"We've dispatched people and crews there to do anything they can and to be helpful in any way they can," said Cuomo.
PATH service is expected to resume by the evening rush, but it wasn't immediately clear when NJ Transit service would resume regular service in and out of the terminal, officials said.
NY Waterway ferries and NJ Transit buses were accepting rail tickets and passes after the crash, officials said.
With reporting by Jeff Mays and Kathleen Culliton