NTSB: LIRR engineer doesn't recall Atlantic Terminal crash, train was going more than 10 mph

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Thursday, January 5, 2017
New details about LIRR crash
N.J. Burkett has the latest developments in the LIRR crash investigation.

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN, New York (WABC) -- The NTSB said the engineer controlling the Long Island Rail Road train that crashed at the end of a platform as it pulled into Atlantic Terminal Wednesday morning, injuring 100 people, doesn't remember the crash.

The packed, rush-hour train crashed as it entered the station in Brooklyn, hurling passengers onto the floor and slamming them into each other. Many had been standing as they prepared to get off the train at the last stop.

The train was going more than 10 mph when the crash happened, an official with the NTSB announced Thursday.

A federal official briefed on the crash told Eyewitness News the train was going into the station at 33 mph, and dropped to 15 mph on the approach, as it was supposed to do. But in the last three minutes, the train's speed fluctuated from 2 mph to 10 mph before striking the bumping block.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, officials interviewed the train's three-member crew, including the engineer, who was treated for minor injuries.

The engineer has worked with the LIRR since 1999 and has worked on this particular run for the last year. He started his shift at midnight the day of the crash, after having three days off.

The NTSB said the engineer told investigators he remembered entering the station, but doesn't remember anything just before and during the crash. He also said he was not on a cellphone at the time, but federal investigators will verify his account by obtaining his cellphone records.

PHOTOS: LIRR train crash aftermath

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An injured passenger, after a Long Island Rail Road commuter train either hit something or derailed, is taken from the Atlantic Terminal, in the Brooklyn borough of New York.
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

NTSB officials will be at the site for up to seven days, and are asking eyewitnesses to email them footage and video of the crash to help with the investigation. The email address is witness@NTSB.gov.

NTSB investigator Jim Southworth said event recorders have been recovered and the train's engineer has undergone drug testing. The results of that testing aren't known yet.

Sources told Eyewitness News that the train's data recorder survived the crash undamaged.

The front of the slow-moving train hit a bumping block as it pulled into the terminal, left the tracks and smashed into a small structure, apparently a work area. A rail pierced the floor of a train car, authorities said.

"Accidents seem to happen in an instant but they take some time to unravel. Our mission is to understand not just what happened, but why it happened," said Southworth.

RELATED: Excessive speed eyed in LIRR crash as investigation gets underway

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Thomas Prendergast said there is "a signal system that controls (trains) coming in at limited speeds. But when you're getting to the end it's the locomotive engineer's responsibility. And the train's brakes have to work. All those things have to be looked at in the investigation."

Passengers said they heard screeching brakes, but it was not enough -- or soon enough -- to stop the train before it slammed into the terminal.

A little more than 100 people were treated for minor injuries after the 8:30 a.m. crash. The most serious was a leg injury, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said. All have been released from the three hospitals. None was admitted.

"The entire structure started shaking," said Steben Medina, who was having coffee at the terminal when he heard the crash and screams. "I thought a bomb had gone off or something."

RELATED: LIRR riders describe chaos, panic after Brooklyn crash

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said: "Luckily, all things considered, this was a relatively minor accident."

The train in Wednesday's wreck originated in Far Rockaway, leaving there at 7:18 a.m., and was carrying around 450 people. The train was supposed to arrive at Atlantic Terminal at 8:11 a.m.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.