Survivors recall harrowing Metro-North derailment

Tim Fleischer reports from LaGrangeville.
December 2, 2013 4:30:14 PM PST
These victims have lived through a harrowing experience. As they relive what they went through, they realize how lucky they are to be alive.

"Jerk, jerk again, and then that third jerk. I felt like the car began to lean to the side to fall," Eddie Russell said.

Sitting in the second to the last car, Russell was in the seat right behind a window which had shattered on impact when the car rolled over on its side, hitting the gravel track bed.

"And it was coming in. So pretty much you either had to hold on, or get thrown around or you fall out the window so i had to get a good grip," he said.

Holding on for dear life, the 22 year veteran of the NYPD said one thought raced through his mind.

"This is how I'm going to die," he said.

But he tells me he wasn't about to give up as the rocks and dust pelted his face.

"You could hear people yelling, but it got so dark from the dust and the rocks that are on the tracks you pretty much couldn't see anything as it was going. You pretty much had to keep your eyes closed," Russell said.

Somehow he says he felt the car starting to right itself and finally came to a stop. He opens his eyes. He sees in this picture the rocks and shards of glass all over the car. He remembers seeing the others injured and becomes emotional.

"And then you're up, and then you see. And then everybody -- pretty much everybody got off the train," Russell said.

But he saw another fellow officer seriously injured.

"She got thrown over onto another chair, so she couldn't move, she was pretty much in pain," Russell said.

Eddie suffers back, knee and wrist injuries. He says though, it could have been worse.

"If there were a lot more people, I think it would be much worse, he said.

Many victims had been released from hospitals by Monday afternoon.

Seven were still in an intensive-care unit at St. Barnabas Hospital, some with spinal injuries, emergency department director Dr. David Listman said. And two patients were reported in critical condition at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

Among those injured is Samuel Rivera of Ossining, who remains in critical condition with a spinal cord injury.

Rivera was an off duty MTA employee riding with his 14-year-old son, who was treated and released.

Dr. David Listman, the Director of Emergency at St. Barnabas Hospital, said the injured passengers are also receiving mental health counseling.

"It's certainly going to be critical to make sure we provide them with the support services they need to be ready to go home after such a devastating tragic accident," said Listman. "The Metro-North train was their way of commuting to work and a lot of these people are going to have to contend with getting back to normal life at some point and having to get back on a Metro-North train that goes through that same area. And that is going to be very difficult for them. I'm sure there will be some degree of post traumatic stress."

Listman says most of the victims were women in their 40s and 50s. Their injuries range from spinal cord injuries to chest bruising.

Cheryl Patton, who was in town from a reunion in Houston, was shaken up after the derailment but not seriously hurt.

"It was surreal, everybody was pretty calm and collected," says Patton. "We got up and got out the best way we could."

Lisa Delgado was able to see her 19-year-old cousin, Sharelle Coore. Coore is a college student who told Delgado the harrowing tale of the moments when the Metro North train careened off the tracks.

"She saw the woman in front of her go through the glass, she hit the side of her face on the glass and it shattered," said Delgado, "then it started to roll and she grabbed on to the railings."

The train's assistant conductor, Maria Herbert, suffered an eye injury and a broken collarbone, Anthony Bottalico, executive director of the rail employees union, said.