May 19, 2013 in Nation/World

Fractured rail may have led to train crash, officials say

Investigators rule out foul play in accident
Devin Kelly Los Angeles Times

Ruling out foul play, federal investigators were looking at a fractured rail as the possible cause of the Connecticut train crash that left dozens of commuters injured and is expected to disrupt travel in and out of New York City for weeks to come.

Earl Weener, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, said in a media briefing Saturday that investigators had discovered that a section of the eastbound track was fractured at the rail joint.

A portion of that track will be sent to a lab for analysis, Weener said. He added that it is unclear at this point when the fracture occurred.

Eight people remained hospitalized Saturday, three in critical condition, officials said. More than 70 were injured in the Friday evening collision near Fairfield, Conn.

The crash prompted state and local officials to urge passengers to make alternate transportation plans.

Amtrak suspended all rail travel indefinitely between New York and New Haven, Conn. The agency said it would update the status of the shutdown today. The Metro-North railroad line suspended local train service indefinitely between its South Norwalk and New Haven stations.

The crash occurred shortly after 6 p.m. when a Metro-North train coming from New York City derailed and hit a passenger train heading toward Manhattan, officials said. Passengers were thrown out of their seats in the chaotic moments that followed.

“All I know was I was in the air, hitting seats, bouncing around, flying down the aisle, and finally I came to a stop on one seat,” Lola Oliver, 49, of Bridgeport, Conn., told the Associated Press. “It happened so fast I had no idea what was going on. All I know is we crashed.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who spoke to reporters at the scene Saturday, said it was fortunate the casualty count was not higher.

NTSB investigators arrived at the Fairfield station early Saturday to inspect the site. The investigation is expected to take seven to 10 days, with teams gathering measurements, inspecting cars, and collecting medical documents and training records from the crews aboard the trains at the time.

The cleanup and repair process will begin after investigators leave.

“Normal service through this area is not expected to resume until a full investigation is complete, the infrastructure is fully assessed and repairs are made,” the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees transit services in the area, said in a statement on its website.

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