Derailment survivor files first lawsuit against MTA

December 5, 2013 1:37:28 PM PST
A woman who suffered extensive injuries, including a broken back, in Sunday's Metro-North derailment has filed the first lawsuit against the MTA, claiming the accident could have been prevented.

With pain from her broken back and cracked ribs so intense, Dr. Denise Williams was unable to answer questions due to heavy medication. Instead by her bedside, her sister in a Skype interview described the derailment horror.

"In her words, her body was tossed around like a basketball. Nothing to grab onto, hold onto. She kept thinking, 'I'm going to die, I'm going to die.'" Hilda Williams said.

Williams, a dentist and retired Colonel, was on her way to a convention when the Metro-North car she was riding in flew off the rails at 82 miles per hour and rolled near the Harlem River.

She was pinned by dirt and debris for more than an hour. While waiting to be rescued, a survivor of the crash came to her side.

"He was with her and praying with her keeping her together so that help could come and take her away," Williams said.

Williams is the first to file a negligence suit against Metro North and the Engineer for Sunday's crash. A stream of lawsuits is expected that could end up costing the railroad tens of millions of dollars.

"This was not an accident. Accident implies no one is at fault," Michael Lamonsoff, Williams attorney, said.

Four people died in the accident, dozens more were injured in last Sunday's derailment. The NTSB has not officially determined a cause, but the engineer has said he experienced a momentary loss of awareness, according to his lawyer and union representative, who called the episode a "nod," a "daze" or highway hypnosis.