Hoboken train passengers: ‘It just didn’t stop’
The New Jersey Transit train never slowed before it barreled into the Hoboken station Thursday morning.
Then came a sudden crash, throwing passengers to the floor as the train plowed through the station and hopped off the tracks.
The crash left one person dead and at least 75 injured amid scenes of carnage: Blood everywhere, people screaming, unresponsive passengers lying on the floor.
Stricken passengers climbed over an obstacle course of debris and through mangled windows to flee the crippled train. Stunned witnesses at the station ran to help.
Here are some of their accounts:
“I didn’t notice that the train was going at an accelerated pace. It was just going. Now, looking back I guess it didn’t slow down. It definitely didn’t slow down. There was no brakes,” he said. ” All of sudden, it just crashed …. It’s the same feeling as when you get in a car crash.”
Offengenden, who was in the third car of the train, said after the wreck he could see crew members looking into the train’s mangled windows and trying to calm agitated victims.
“The lights went out and a few people screamed … When we got out I could see that the roof of the station collapsed and there were wires and water running. A man walked past me, holding his arm. I saw some blood. I don’t want to describe too much. I think I’m still in shock a little bit,” he said.
“There was a woman coming out of the second car, I believe, who had sort of blood on her face. When I went to the front of the front car, it was essentially off the rails.”
Shah, who was standing in the back of the crowded first car, said he got on the train at the stop before Hoboken and noticed it didn’t decrease speed as it neared the station.
“It wasn’t that fast but it just didn’t slow down,” he said. “It ran right through the backstop.”
“I wasn’t paying attention,” he said. “The next thing I know, I’m on the floor and we are plowing through something …. I was lying on the floor when it was happening and the cabin was dark. I was hoping the train would stop now, but it just didn’t stop. It kept going and going and going. At the end of it, it felt like eternity.”
Shah said the doors would not open after the crash and he had to climb out an emergency window and jump to the ground.
“When the train comes to a stop, I could see the parts of the roof on the first car,” he said. “I saw a bunch of people trying to get someone out from under debris. There was a woman … she was pinned under some debris next to the first car.”
To those watching the train barrel through the station, however, it was clear something was wrong.
“It was considerably faster than it should have normally been at the terminal,” said New Jersey Transit Employee William Blaine. “It usually comes to a complete stop about ten to twenty feet before the bumper block.”
Larson watched incredulously as the train went through the bumper block and flew through the air.
“I heard a bomb-like explosion,” he said. “As soon as I heard it, it was right there in front of me.”
William Blaine was not a passenger. He is a freight train engineer with 17 years experience who was at the terminal when the passenger train left the tracks and crashed. The crash left him rattled because of the emphasis on safety in training for engineers.
“After I came out of shock … it just frightened me,” he said. “Shook me up a little bit, when you saw … the frantic . people and all that.”
Blaine said he had just arrived at the station and was in Dunkin’ Donuts looking at the menu when he suddenly thought a bomb had gone off.
“You just heard a kaboom, and you could hear it get quiet because the first thing you’re going to think of, terrorists. This is how it goes in this country. I thought somebody blew it up …
“I ran out and … I saw people laying down and debris and metal all over the place. Then I looked clearer, and I saw the train in the wall. I said, `Oh my God.’ So I ran over with everybody and I tried to help people out of the train … But the hardest part that hurts me is when I went to run in, I ended up stepping over a dead woman’s body. That bothers me. I backed up and looked, said, `What the?’ … and nothing you do for her.”
Ben Fairclough’s train pulled into the Hoboken station right after the accident, and he soon saw a “ton of debris” and bleeding, dazed people.
“It was eerie silence, people just trying to figure out what had just transpired,” he said. “There were people climbing out of the windows, trying to get themselves to safety. I spoke to a number of people who were on the train … who said the train, `It just wouldn’t stop, it just wouldn’t stop.’ It was sort of the recurring theme from the folks who were there.”
“The immediate aftermath was unfortunately fairly devastating. The roof appeared to have collapsed and immediately you were concerned about the safety of the folks who were on the train or in the area.”