Arrest made in subway derailment caused by train striking debris on tracks in Manhattan

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Tuesday, September 22, 2020
Arrest made in subway derailment caused by debris on tracks
A man has been arrested for allegedly tossing debris onto subway tracks in Manhattan Sunday morning in Chelsea, causing a train to derail and snarling service for much of the day.

CHELSEA, Manhattan (WABC) -- A man has been arrested for allegedly tossing debris onto subway tracks in Manhattan Sunday morning in Chelsea, causing a train to derail and snarling service for much of the day.

Demetrius Harvard, 30, is charged with reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, assault and criminal trespass.

The District Attorney requested that the defendant be remanded or that bail be set at $100,000.

Police said an investigation revealed Harvard was seen throwing construction debris on the express track at the 8th Avenue and 14th Street train station around 8:15 a.m.

After hours of suspensions, local service returned Sunday evening with delays, but the MTA late Sunday announced that full service was expected to be restored on the A/C/E lines by 5 a.m. Monday morning.

In Sunday's apparent act of sabotage, the front wheels went off the rails as the train pulled into the station and struck the tossed metal plate, with the car scraping against columns, damaging them, and shredding the exterior of the train.

Citizen app video shows a passenger on the subway platform after the train derailment.

"A northbound train came into contact with debris on the roadbed as it was pulling into the 14St-8th Av station resulting in a wheel leaving the track," NYCT Interim President Sarah Feinberg said in a statement.

The two front wheel sets - four wheels in total -- derailed to the west of the running rails, according to an MTA official.

Feinberg said as a result of the derailment the train's first car scraped four columns that separate the northbound express track from the southbound express track.

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Police believe a lone suspect who has vandalized MTA subway trains has struck again.

The MTA says the "heroic" crew was able to stop the train and safely discharge around 135 passengers at the station.

"This was an all-hands on deck emergency with transit workers from multiple divisions responding to assist riders and then begin repairing the extensive damage. It's a stark reminder that the MTA can't cut its front-line workers even if the federal government fails to provide funding in a COVID relief package," Transport Workers Union Local 100 President Tony Utano said.

A fire department spokesperson said three of the riders suffered minor injuries. One person was taken to a hospital for evaluation and the other two declined treatment.

Due to the derailment, the MTA confirmed a loss of power to all four tracks.

Additionally, another train farther up the track near 34th Street remained in the tunnel due to the power loss. About 125 passengers were stranded for a short period of time, but the crew was able to remove those customers off the train safely.

The derailed train, however, did endure serious damage.

"We have significant damage to the train car itself," Head of Subways for NYC Transit Frank Jezycki said. "And significant damage to the trackbed and track components as well as some damage to the structural steel columns in between the tracks. We have track opponents including track, plates, clips, tires themselves. We have 100 feet of the third rail with damage and we have significant damage to the car itself. In some of the photos, the crash actually struck the steel."

MTA officials discuss the train derailment on a subway track in Manhattan.

Crews worked furiously Sunday to restore full service, which was completed before Monday's rush. Still, the agency warned that straphangers should still monitor alerts for any interruptions.

"The dedicated NYC Transit workforce has been working nonstop to restore service for customers," said NYCT Interim President Sarah Feinberg in a statement released Sunday evening. "Full service is expected to resume in time for the Monday morning rush, though customers should continue to check for service updates as there will be residual delays. Once again I want to thank our incredible crews and employees, as well as our customers for their patience."

The case is adjourned to September 25.

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