MANHATTAN — The A train derailment in West Harlem Tuesday that injured 34 people was caused by "human error" and a piece of replacement rail that had been improperly stored on the tracks, MTA officials said.
It wasn't immediately clear how the equipment was improperly stored, but it somehow triggered the emergency brake of a southbound A train as it approached the 125th Street station about 9:48 a.m. and threw two cars off the tracks, officials said.
The train "bucked," as MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said during a Tuesday afternoon news conference. It slammed into a wall, tearing open a door, and flung terrified passengers from their seats as it damaged tracks and tunnel gear, officials said.
In the aftermath, transit workers will inspect "every inch of rail" to make sure all the equipment that's stored in the subway system is properly secured, officials said.
"Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers. The investigation into this incident continues," Lhota and Ronnie Hakim, the MTA's interim executive director, said in a joint press release late Tuesday night.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, who oversees the transit system through board appointments, drew heat from New Yorkers for his handling of the MTA and was silent on the derailment throughout the day until he issued a statement hours afterward.
"This morning's subway derailment is an unacceptable manifestation of the system's current state. New Yorkers deserve better," the governor said.
"It is my expectation that with new leadership brought by Joe Lhota, the MTA will address the fundamental issues plaguing the transit system and overhaul the organizational structure of the MTA. As I have told Joe, any support the MTA needs to get through this crisis, will be provided," he added.