A commuter train from New York pulling into a station for its final stop crashed into the bumpers at the end of the tracks Sunday morning, injuring 34 people, shutting down service and putting Monday morning's commute in jeopardy.
None of the injuries in the PATH train's 8:30 a.m. crash was considered life-threatening, though several victims were taken away on stretchers or put in neck braces as a precaution, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer said. The injured, who mostly sustained cuts and bruises, were taken to three area hospitals for treatment, and most, if not all, were expected to be released later in the day.
The cause of the crash remained under investigation, but city police said it appeared that a mechanical failure was to blame. The National Transportation Safety Board and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey were investigating, and officials said train service would remain suspended until the NTSB completed its initial review, which was ongoing late Sunday afternoon as crews worked feverishly to repair damaged tracks.
Port Authority and city officials said crews would be working through the night to make repairs at the station in Hoboken, just across the Hudson River from New York City. It was hoped that one of the three tracks would be reopened by Sunday night and that a second would be ready for the Monday morning commute, but it was unknown when the remaining track might reopen. To help deal with the potential travel woes on Monday, transit officials said additional bus and ferry service would be provided, and most agencies planned to honor each other's tickets.
The PATH, or Port Authority Trans-Hudson, system is the main transit link between Manhattan and neighboring New Jersey urban communities and suburban commuter railroads. It handles nearly 250,000 passenger trips each weekday, fewer on weekends.
Officials said the motorman on Sunday's train would be tested for drugs and alcohol, which is standard policy in such crashes. They said there was no reason or evidence to suggest that the motorman had been impaired at the time of the crash.
Passengers on the train, which had departed earlier in the morning from New York City, said it had been a routine trip until they suddenly were knocked around by the impact.
"People were stunned, but nobody was really going crazy or anything," said Tom Gordon, of Jersey City, who was riding in the train's front car with about 15 other people. "I didn't know what had happened at first."
Gordon, who was headed home from his security job at a New York City apartment building, said he was half-asleep as the train pulled into the station on track No. 2. But he was quickly awakened and jolted from his seat by the crash.
He was taken to Hoboken University Medical Center for treatment of minor arm and rib injuries and left the hospital Sunday afternoon with his arm in a sling.
"I just want to get home," he said while waiting for his wife to pick him up.
Witnesses described the scene as the station as "controlled chaos," saying people were mostly calm but very concerned for the injured. Zimmer praised the efforts of emergency responders from Hoboken and surrounding communities who answered their call for assistance.
"Everyone did a great job," she said.
Allison Portney, of Rockland County, N.Y., was walking just outside the station to catch a New Jersey Transit train home when she saw many people slowly emerging from the station. The last victim to be removed from the scene was taken away on a stretcher around 11:30 a.m.
"Most of (the injured) were walking, but they all looked pretty shaken," Portney said.
Zimmer said updated information on service disruptions would be posted on the city's and Port Authority's websites.