Metro-North Crash Raises Questions about Speed, Curve, Maintenance

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he thinks speed will turn out to be a factor in the derailment of the Metro-North train that killed four people and injured more than 60.

Cuomo said Monday on NBC's "Today" show that other possible factors ranged from equipment failure and operator failure to a track problem. He also warned that service on the line may not return to normal until later in the week.

Cranes were in the process Monday morning of hoisting the tilted car that was connected to the locomotive back on the track. The locomotive was righted earlier in the morning. A team of investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board is on site and expects to be there for 7-10 days. The board's expected to provided an update later Monday.  

Passengers and transit officials reported no major delays during the morning rush hour, though some Hudson line riders said their commutes had grown longer because trains are not running the full length of the the line. Passengers must take shuttle buses between Yonkers and 242nd Street terminus of the No. 1 subway line in the Bronx. For more details on the commute, go here.

"It took longer than I kind of expected once we got on the bus," said one commuter, Michelle Manning.

At a news conference Sunday afternoon, National Transportation Safety Board member Earl Weener said that investigators are checking tracks, signals, equipment and looking at both the train's maintenance records as well as personnel records.

Weener said that the NTSB had yet to talk with the train's conductor, and that investigators expected to start speaking with the train crew on Monday. Asked whether the track's curve, which has come under scrutiny for being the location of more than one accident in the past 12-months, Weener said that the curve alone was unlikely to be the source of the crash.

The four fatalities were identified as Donna Smith, 54, of Newburgh; James Lovell, 58, of Cold Spring; James Ferrari, 59, of Montrose; and Kisook Ahn, of Queens. Three of the dead were found outside the train, and one was found inside, authorities said. Eleven people are believed to be in critical condition, authorities said. The train operator was among the dozens injured, Cuomo said.

The site of the crash was less than 2,000 feet from the point where another derailment took place earlier this year. In July, a freight train carrying tons of garbage topped over into a ravine. MTA spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said the big curve where the derailment occurred is in a slow speed area. The black box should be able to tell how fast the train was traveling, Anders said.

The derailment of the southbound Hudson Line train was reported at about 7:20 a.m., authorities said. The train left Poughkeepsie at 5:54 a.m. and was due to arrive at 7:43 a.m. at Grand Central Terminal.

Four or five cars on the seven-car train derailed about 100 yards north of the station, but none of the cars entered the Hudson or Harlem rivers, which are adjacent, the MTA said.

The train appeared to be going "a lot faster" than usual as it approached the curve coming into the station, passenger Frank Tatulli told WABC-TV.

Joel Zaritsky told The Associated Press he was on his way to New York City for a dental convention.

"I was asleep and I woke up when the car started rolling several times. Then I saw the gravel coming at me, and I heard people screaming. There was smoke everywhere and debris. People were thrown to the other side of the train," he said, holding his bloody right hand.

Passengers were taken off the derailed train, with dozens of them bloodied and scratched, holding ice packs to their heads.

Sunday's accident is the second passenger train derailment in six months for the rail service and presents Metro-North with another problem in a year plagued by safety issues.

On May 17, an eastbound train derailed in Bridgeport, Conn., and was struck by a westbound train. The crash injured 73 passengers, two engineers and a conductor. Eleven days later, track foreman Robert Luden was struck and killed by a train in West Haven, Conn.

Earlier this month, Metro-North's chief engineer, Robert Puciloski, told members of the NTSB investigating the May derailment and Ludent's death that the railroad is "behind in several areas," including a five-year schedule of cyclical maintenance that had not been conducted in the area of the Bridgeport derailment since 2005.