EXCLUSIVE: Train operator speaks out about subway train collision and derailment in New York City

Friday, January 12, 2024
Exclusive: MTA operator details firsthand account of train derailment
N.J. Burkett has the exclusive sitdown.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Andy Valentine was the train operator who was stationed in the lead car of a disabled train that collided with another train full of passengers during a subway derailment in New York City last week.

It happened the afternoon of Thursday, January 4 on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

In an exclusive interview, Valentine told Eyewitness News Reporter N.J. Burkett that he saw the signals go red and he immediately radioed to the supervisor, who didn't respond and kept the train moving forward.

N.J. Burkett's complete exclusive interview with train operator Andy Valentine.

"I never felt more helpless in my life, to be honest with you," Valentine said.

Valentine was desperate -- determined to avoid the derailment that left two dozen riders injured.

Two trains wedged together and went off the rails after colliding just outside the 96th Street subway station. A No. 1 train on the right was packed with 1,000 riders. It was struck by the train on the left--which was empty, and being driven by a supervisor from the middle of the train.

Valentine had been acting as a lookout in the lead car of that train, relaying what he saw back to the supervisor. But their signal turned red and Valentine got on the radio.

I never felt more helpless in my life to be honest with you.
Andy Valentine, train operator

"I said, 'Slow me down, slow me down. Give me a stop,'" Valentine said. "He didn't slow me down and he didn't stop."

N.J. Burkett speaks exclusively with the train operator aboard a derailed subway train in Manhattan.

Seconds later, the passenger train would cross directly in front of them. But there was still no response from the supervisor who was driving Valentine's train.

"I'm yelling, 'No' on the radio. 'Stop the train. Stop the train. Stop the train,'" he said. "If he doesn't adhere to my commands, my verbal commands, I'm helpless."

Valentine explained that he realized an impact was imminent.

"I felt like I was a spectator about to watch myself be killed," he said. "The sound of the two trains crashing was extremely loud. When I got up, I was surrounded by white clouds of smoke. It's hard to breathe. And I was just trying to get myself together."

The impact threw Valentine halfway through the car.

"I didn't leave that train until every passenger was off the train," Valentine said. "I went to make sure everybody was OK. I assured them that they're going to be OK and once every passenger was off the train, then I was able to get off the train."

I felt like I was a spectator about to watch myself be killed.

Valentine's train had been taken out of service prior to the crash after pranksters pulled multiple emergency brakes. It struck the passenger train as it was being moved to the railyard on orders from transit supervisors.

He said he believes the situation was avoidable.

"Because there was nothing I could have done to stop that train," Valentine said. "All you have is a radio, my verbal commands and me hoping and praying that he hears me and he responds to my commands."

Valentine was asked if he blames himself for the collision.

"No, sir, but, I have a responsibility to my passengers and I felt they needed to hear that they're going to be OK," Valentine said.

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Anthony Carlo has the details.


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