Broken rail eyed in Conn. commuter train crash

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – On Saturday, officials said that the commuter train collision that occurred in Connecticut which left dozens of people injured was not the result of foul play. They are investigating the whole incident and are studying the fractured section of the rail to determine if it is connected to the crash.

Earl Weener, a National Transportation Safety Board member, spoke at a press conference on Saturday and said that the broken rail is of substantial interest to investigators and a portion of the track will be sent to a lab for analysis. “As to the schedule for moving forward, our investigation is well underway. We are working closely with the Federal Railroad Administration and Metro-North to gather principal evidence and key measurements to expedite our on-site activities”. He also said that it is not clear if the collision caused the fracture or if the rail was broken before the accident. Weener said that he cannot say anything about the cause of the derailment and emphasized that “We are still in the very early stages”. According to him, data recorders on board are expected to provide the speed of the trains when the collision happened and also other information related to the accident. “Our mission is to understand not just what happened but why it happened and determine ways of preventing it from happening again”.

On Friday evening, 72 people were injured in the collision when a Metro-North train travelling east from New York City derailed and was struck by a train travelling west from New Haven. They all were sent to the hospital for treatment. Many patients have been discharged from the hospital. Officials said that no one died in the crash, it is fortunate.

The tracks were damaged by the collision and the accident caused Amtrak to suspend its service between New York and Boston.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal visited the hospital and met many patients; he said, “All of the injured people described the really harrowing experience of having the train jolt to a stop, the dust, darkness, and other kinds of factors that made it particularly frightening”. He told that a Metro-North conductor, who was also injured, helped the passengers. “Her story is really one of great strength and courage helping other passengers off the train in spite of her own very severe pain. She eventually had to be helped off herself,” Blumenthal added. While describing the damage caused by the accident, damaged interior of cars and tons of metal tossed around he said, “The damage is absolutely staggering. I feel that we are fortunate that even more injuries were not the result of this very tragic and unfortunate accident”. First responders were praised by Blumenthal. He said that their “quick reactions and heroic efforts undoubtedly saved lives”.

It was “frankly amazing” that people were not killed on the accident spot, said U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy. New Metro-North Railroad cars built with higher standards may have saved lives said by both, Murphy and Blumenthal.

Until further notice, the train will not provide its service between South Norwalk and New Haven. Rebuilding the 2 damaged tracks and restoring train service “will take well into next week” according to the railroad officials. President of MTA Metro-North Railroad, Howard Permut said, “We want our customers to know that while you travel on Metro-North, you can remain confident that your safety, and the safety of our employees, is always the first priority in everything we do”.

On Saturday, investigators of the National Transportation Safety Board arrived to investigate the accident and it is expected that they will remain there for 7 to 10 days. Checking the brakes, the condition of the tracks, train signal information, performance of the trains and crew will be included in the investigation. Removing the damaged rail cars and remaining garbage will be started by the Metro-North after the NTSB completes the on-site phase of its investigation. According to officials, heavy and specialized equipment is needed to remove the damaged rail cars that will be available from Sunday and only after the process of removing completes, the Metro-North will start work of rebuilding the damaged tracks and overhead wires.

In a statement, the MTA said, “It is a significant undertaking that could take days to complete”. The NTSB has allowed Metro-North to start removing some of the track and wire from the scene.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said to the city workers that they should make plans for other travelling options for travelling through the area and he advised them to consult the state Department of Transportation website for information.

Transit and Bridgeport officials told that nearly 700 people were travelling on the Metro-North trains when one was travelling east from New York City’s Grand Central Terminal to New Haven derailed. The collision occurred at 6:10 p.m. just outside Bridgeport.

On Saturday, a spokeswoman for St. Vincent Medical Center told that 46 people injured in the accident were transferred here from which 6 were admitted. She said that all the patients were in stable condition. A spokesman from Bridgeport Hospital told that 26 injured people were transferred here from which 3 were admitted in the hospital. 23 patients were released, 2 were in stable condition and 1 was in critical condition.

53-year-old Frank Bilotti was the passenger; he said that he was coming back from a business trip in Boston on the westbound train when the accident happened. He was not injured in the crash. He told that “Everybody was pretty much tossed around. Firefighters used ladders to help people evacuate after the derailed cars dug into the banks of the tracks. There were people on stretchers. There were people lying on the ground”.

The damage caused by the accident could cost the region’s economy millions of dollars said Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch.

Frances Liu is graduating from Yale, she and her family were trying to get to New Haven but a train could get them only as far north as Stamford. Liu’s parents had their Chinese licenses. She said, “And then we’ll rent a car and drive. My mom can drive. So I hope it’ll be OK!”

The Metro-North Railroad is the second-largest commuter railroad in the nation which is operated by MTA. The Metro-North main lines – the Hudson, Harlem, and New Haven – run northward from New York City’s Grand Central Terminal into suburban New York and Connecticut.

The Railroad officials told that last time the significant train collision involving Metro-North happened in 1988. In that accident, a train engineer died in Mount Vernon, N.Y., when one train empty of passengers rear-ended another.

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