Exclusive: Pair of Queens subway derailments at same location a mystery

ByEyewitness News via WABC logo
Thursday, February 2, 2017
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NJ Burkett has the exclusive from Flushing.

FLUSHING, Queens (WABC) -- Rail workers and New York City Transit officials are struggling to understand why two subway trains derailed in exactly the same location two nights in a row.

"In my 20-plus years, I've never seen two derailments at the same location in as many days," said Paul Navarro, track division chairman for the Transport Workers Union. "Thankfully there weren't any injuries, but a derailment is always a problem."

It happened on the 7 train at the Willets Point/Citi Field station in Queens on Saturday night and again late Sunday night. According to Navarro, there was no obvious defect or damage that would explain either of the derailments, which he claimed is also unusual.

"It's usually either the track or human error," he said. "They pretty much get to the bottom of it right away."

MTA officials confirm that the derailments occurred less than a week after the tracks, the switches and the circuitry had been replaced and upgraded.

"The cause of both incidents remains under investigation," MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said. "A new section of track that was installed last week...has been removed and will be evaluated by the manufacturer."

Within three hours of the second derailment, the NYPD was called to investigate a report of an unauthorized person on the tracks. Service was halted in both directions on the 7 line before officers determined there was no threat.

"He was not any person of interest," Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said, adding that there is no ongoing criminal investigation into the derailments. "We believe this was accidental."

In the absence of any obvious explanation for the derailments, Navarro said a report of anyone on the tracks is troubling. There may not be a connection, he said, "but it's a concern, let's put it that way."

Nick Casale, former chief of counterterrorism for the MTA, also weighed in.

"It's highly unusual for two derailments in such a short period of time after there was work done on the tracks," he said. "I agree 100 percent with the TWU."

As an extra margin of safety, the MTA has imposed a speed restriction through the derailment scene until the precise cause of the incidents can be determined.