At least one person was killed and more than 100 others were injured, some critically, when a commuter train crashed into a busy rail station Thursday in Hoboken, New Jersey, near New York City.
Hoboken city spokesman Juan Melli told VOA the train derailed and plowed through the platform during the morning rush hour.
Witnesses reported seeing one woman pinned under concrete and others bleeding after the train crashed through a barrier at the end of the track. The train stopped in a covered area between an indoor waiting area and the platform, causing the collapse of a section of the metal roof.
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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said the train entered the station "at much too high rate of speed" and "crashed into all the barriers" before stopping.
Christie declined to offer specifics about the cause of the crash but said he thought it was "nothing more than a tragic accident."
Christie said the train's engineer was hospitalized in critical condition and was "cooperating with law enforcement officials in the investigation."
Passenger Ross Bauer was sitting in the third or fourth car when the crash occurred. "All of a sudden, there was an abrupt stop and a big jolt that threw people out of their seats. The lights went out and we heard a loud crashing noise, like an explosion, that turned out to be the roof of the terminal. I heard panicked screams, and everyone was stunned."
Jay Lopez heard the crash as he walked nearby. "I saw people running and say right away, 'I'm seeking safety,' thinking it was a bomb or something," he said in an interview with VOA.
A female passenger in the second car of the train said she was running late and almost missed the train Thursday morning. "I just caught it in the last minute," she said, crying, still shaken up, five hours after the accident. "It was meant to be." The woman, who wished to be identified as Mariam, said she was lucky to be alive for her two children.
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Images on television and social media showed extensive damage to the rail station and the front of a train resting beyond the tracks.
Rail service was suspended in and out of Hoboken, located about seven miles (11 kilometers) outside New York City.
Rescue crews were on the scene and investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the National Railroad Administration were sent there.
None of the trains under the control of New Jersey Transit, the operator of the state-owned transit system, are fully equipped with positive train control, a safety system designed to prevent accidents by automatically slowing or stopping trains that travel too fast. The federal government has ordered the installation of the systems throughout the nation, but the deadline has been repeatedly extended at the request of the railroads.
NTSB Vice Chairperson Bella Dinh-Zarr told reporters the safety system "has been one of our priorities. We know it can prevent accidents."
Former Transporation Department Inspector General Mary Schiavo told CNN she suspected the crash was the result of problems with the engineer or the train. Shiavo said installation of positive train control would be problematic because the nation's rail system is "very old" and it would "cost a lot of money to change the system."
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The Hoboken Terminal is a crucial transfer station for thousands of people who commute daily between New Jersey and New York City. It was built in 1907 and has undergone numerous restorations. The station underwent major repairs after being extensively damaged by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Wayne Lee contributed to this report.