The morning after a frightening crash that caused a Long Island Rail Road train carrying 600 passengers to derail Saturday evening, officials took a moment to breathe a sigh of relief that most people escaped without any serious injuries.
“When you look at the actual damage to this situation, this silver lining is we’re fortunate that more people weren’t seriously hurt,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday morning after surveying the wreckage. “The damage to the train cars is extensive and we have had a number of injuries, but frankly, that we didn’t lose any lives is something to be thankful for.”
In total, 33 people were injured, 26 of whom were passengers, officials said. Four of the injuries were classified as serious. One passenger suffered broken bones and was forced to undergo surgery.
Although the crash is currently under investigation, officials were able to shed more clarity on the crash, which occurred just after 9 p.m. in New Hyde Park.
Cuomo said the passenger train and a work train were running in the same direction when they sideswiped each other, causing three of the passenger train’s cars to careen off the tracks.
The passenger train “was where it was supposed to be,” officials said, adding that the work train appeared to have intruded on the other train’s path.
MTA Chairman Thomas F. Prendergast said the work train was being used for maintenance on an inoperable track.
“One of the last steps is that piece of equipment going back and forth and I think they had completed and they were going to make a move east with all of the work equipment and clear up,” he said. “Why it ended up where it did…that’s what we need to find out in the investigation.”
The work of ascertaining how it came to be that the work train apparently impeded the passenger train will be left to the National Transportation Safety Board, the agency responsible for investigating transportation-related incidents.
Cuomo urged everyone to exercise caution and let investigators examine the crash site before drawing any conclusions.
“Once we have the facts from NTSB, anything the LIRR can learn from the incident, we will learn,” the governor said.
Cuomo was effusive in his praise for first responders considering they were working under darkness and were at a disadvantage because the track was sitting on a steep hill.
He said crews will focus on removing the debris and the damaged trains with the hope of getting the train back in service. With Monday being Columbus Day, the railroad is expecting lighter ridership, which could help relieve the stress of the painstaking work ahead, officials acknowledged.
Cuomo said additional state resources have been ordered to assist the LIRR.
“If we have to work all day and all night long, we will because we want to make sure tomorrow’s commute is as normal and as easy as possible,” Cuomo said.
Service remained suspended on the LIRR’s Oyster Bay branch due to the crash.
The railroad released the following instructions to customers using its service:
Huntington/Port Jefferson Branch
Port Jefferson – Hicksville Customers
The LIRR has established limited alternate service to/from stations Hicksville through Port Jefferson with a diesel shuttle train that will operate between Hicksville and Babylon, then train transfers at Hicksville to/from Huntington and points east.
Westbound customers will take a westbound train to Hicksville. There, they will board a diesel train to Babylon, which will travel along the ‘Central Branch.’ At Babylon, transfer to a westbound train to New York.
Eastbound customers should take an eastbound train to Babylon. There, they will board a diesel train to Hicksville, which will travel along the ‘Central Branch.’ At Hicksville, transfer to an eastbound train to Huntington and points east.
To avoid delays, customers are advised to use the Montauk or Babylon Branches
Westbury – New Hyde Park Customers
The LIRR is providing limited bus service between Jamaica and the New Hyde Park, Merillon Avenue, Mineola, Carle Place & Westbury Stations.
Westbound customers will take a westbound bus to Jamaica, then transfer to trains for service to points west.
Eastbound customers should take an eastbound train to Jamaica. There, they transfer to a bus for service to New Hyde Park, Merillon Ave., Mineola, Carle Place & Westbury.
To avoid busing and delays, customers are advised to use the Hempstead Branch.
(Featured photo credit: New York Governor’s office)