LIRR trains sideswipe; causes morning mess

November 19, 2008 3:14:10 PM PST
Eyewitness News has learned that investigators believe Wednesday's morning's LIRR accident was the result of human error, and not a mechanical or signal malfunction. Sources familiar with the accident investigation tell Eyewitness News, investigators are examining email and telephone records to determine whether he might have been using a cellular telephone or a Blackberry at the time of the collision.

Those same sources say the facts of the accident suggest that the engineer may have been distracted, and unaware that he had ignored a stop signal and was driving into the side of another commuter train crossing directly in front of him. One train sideswiped another as it was changing tracks. There was no derailment, there were no serious injuries.

This was the commuter railroad equivalent of a fender bender.

Hundreds of people were evacuated and tens of thousands of people were delayed at the height of the morning rush hour.

"Our train just collided with the train that was to our left and the front end of our train scraped the entire side of the other train," said one commuter. "We thought the front end was going to cave in on us," he added.

The incident took place shortly after 7:30 a.m. when the cab of a double decker diesel train grazed the last car of a commuter train just ahead of it.

Sources familiar with the investigation tell Eyewitness News it appears the engineer of the diesel train, was too quick to change tracks.

"We had customers that needed to be evacuated from both trains. We did have one customer injury that was reported. We thank the NYC Fire Department for assisting and removing that customer," said Helen Williams, the LIRR President.

The damage was minor, but the accident and the investigation that followed virtually shut down the entire railroad.

Rush hour trains stacked up for miles up and down the main line, with commuters forced to sit for hours.

Commuters lucky enough to reach Jamaica station were able to take subways to work.

Sources tell Eyewitness News the accident was a case of human error.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Scott Curkin

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