UK & World News

  • 3 December 2013, 0:06

New York City Train Crash: Speed Was 82mph

A commuter train that derailed in New York was travelling at 82mph as it approached a 30mph zone, accident investigators have said.

The train came off the track on a sharp curve on Sunday morning, with all seven carriages careering off the rails. Four people were killed. 

It stopped feet from the mouth of the Harlem River where it flows into the Hudson.

The National Transportation Safety Board released details about the train's speed hours after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had said that it was probably travelling too fast.

Investigators had earlier recovered both black boxes, which were expected to provide vital information on the speed of the train and how the brakes were applied.

Investigators, who are not currently aware of any problems with brakes, plan to conduct interviews with the engineer and conductor over the coming hours and days.

Speaking from the site of the crash earlier, Mr Cuomo said: "This was a tricky turn on the system, but it's a turn that's been here for decades and trains negotiate all day long."

He told NBC: "It's not about the turn.

"I think it's going to turn out to be about the speed more than anything, and the operator's operation of the train at that time."

The governor said other possible factors ranged from equipment failure and operator failure to a track problem.

"It was actually much worse than it looked," Mr Cuomo said, calling the crash "your worst nightmare".

"As the cars were skidding across the ground, they were actually picking up a lot of debris, a lot of dirt and stones and tree limbs were going through the cars so it actually looked worse up close."

Authorities identified the victims as legal professional Donna Smith, 54, sound and light technician James Lovell, 58, nurse Ahn Kisook, 35, and James Ferrari, 59.

Three of the dead were found outside the train and one was found inside, authorities said.

Another 63 people have been injured, some seriously, though their injuries are not believed to be life-threatening. 

The New York City medical examiner's office said autopsies are scheduled for later.

Mr Lovell, a cancer and heart disease survivor, was on his way to Manhattan to work on New York's famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, according to friend Janet Barton.

He had worked on NBC TV shows, including Today, for more than 20 years and had three sons, Hudson, Jack and Finn, and a daughter, Brooke.

Don Nash, executive of the Today show, said: "He was not only a skilled technician but also one of the nicest guys you ever met.

"You may have seen him working at many of our outdoor concerts. He always had a smile on his face and was quick to share a friendly greeting."

His son Finn wrote on Instagram: "Words can't express how much my father meant to me. It's safe to say he moulded me into the man I am today.

"I love you and I miss you. I can't believe you're gone. This feels like an awful nightmare that I can't wake up from. Rest easy dad. I love you."

Rescuers at the scene shattered windows, searched nearby woods and waters and used pneumatic jacks and air bags to peer under wreckage.

Officials were due to bring in cranes during the night to right the overturned cars on the slight chance anyone might still be underneath, National Transportation Safety Board member Earl Weener said.

Mr Weener said the speed limit on the curve is 30mph (48kmph), compared with 70mph (113kmph) in the area approaching.

One passenger, Frank Tatulli, told WABC-TV that the train appeared to be going "a lot faster" than usual as it approached the sharp curve near the Spuyten Duyvil station.

Local residents awoke to a loud boom, as the force of the crash shook nearby buildings.

Angel Gonzalez was in bed in his high-rise apartment overlooking the rail curve when he heard the roar.

"I thought it was a plane that crashed," he said.

According to local media, train engineer William Rockefeller Jr told supervisors he had tried to apply the brakes but the train did not slow down as it entered the bend.

As deadly as the derailment was, the number of people killed could have been far greater had it happened on a busy weekday, or had the lead car plunged into the water.

The Poughkeepsie to Grand Central Station train, which had about 150 people on board, was half-full at the time of the crash, rail officials said.