Train crash kills 50 in Taiwan’s deadliest rail tragedy in decades

By Ann Wang

HUALIEN, Taiwan (Reuters) – A Taiwan express train with almost 500 aboard derailed in a tunnel on Friday after hitting a truck that had slid down a bank onto the track, killing at least 50 passengers and injuring 146 in the island’s worst rail disaster in seven decades.

Images from the scene showed some carriages ripped apart by the impact, with others crumpled, hindering rescuers in their efforts to reach passengers.

By mid-afternoon no one was still trapped, though the fire department said it had found body parts, meaning the number of those killed, who included the driver, was likely to rise.

“People just fell all over each other, on top of one another,” a woman who survived the crash told domestic television. “It was terrifying. There were whole families there.”

Taiwan’s government said there were 496 people on the train, including 120 without seats. Many were tourists and people heading home at the start of a traditional long weekend holiday to tend to family graves. One French citizen was amongst the dead, officials said.

The train was travelling from Taipei, the capital, to the southeastern city of Taitung.

It came off the rails north of the eastern city of Hualien after hitting a truck that had slid off a road from a nearby construction site, Feng Hui-sheng, the Taiwan Railways Administration’s deputy director, told reporters.

Feng said the manager of the site, which was stabilizing the mountainside to prevent landslides, visited around 9 a.m. (0100 GMT) and stopped his truck in front of the site office.

“At present it is suspected because the vehicle wasn’t braked properly, it slid for around 20 meters along the site access road and entered the eastern trunk line,” he added.

The official Central News Agency said police had taken in the manager for questioning.

The fire department showed a picture of what appeared to be wreckage of the truck beside the derailed train, with an aerial image of one end of the train still on the track next to the construction site.

‘EVERYTHING SHOOK’

Survivors described their terror as the train slammed into the truck and ground to a halt.

“It suddenly came to a stop and then everything shook,” one told local television. “It was all so chaotic.”

Passengers in some carriages still in the tunnel had to be led to safety, the railway administration said.

Images showed an injured passenger carried away on a stretcher, with her head and neck in a brace, while others gathered suitcases and bags in a tilted, derailed carriage as some walked on the train’s roof to exit the tunnel.

The accident occurred at the beginning of a long weekend for the traditional Tomb Sweeping Day holiday.

Taiwan’s mountainous east coast is a tourist destination. The railway that snakes down from Taipei hugs the coast and is known for its tunnels, in one of which the crash took place. The link to Taipei opened in 1979.

Taiwan’s state-owned railways are generally reliable and efficient, but have had a patchy safety record over the years.

The last major crash was in 2018, when 18 people died and 175 were injured when a train derailed in the island’s northeast.

In 1948, 64 people are estimated to have died when a train burst into flames in northern Taiwan.

(Reporting by Ann Wang; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, William Maclean and John Stonestreet)

U.S. safety board: Train-crash engineers had sleep disorders

: A computer screen showing different tracks at the Penn Station Control Room for Amtrak and the Long Island Rail Road is pictured in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. July 25, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo A

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The engineers in two New York City area commuter train crashes suffered from undiagnosed sleep disorders, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said on Thursday.

The board plans to hold a Feb. 6 meeting on the September 2016 crash in Hoboken, New Jersey, that killed one person and injured more than 100 others, and the January accident in Brooklyn that left more than 100 people with non-life-threatening injuries.

Both engineers had no memory of the crashes and were severely overweight. The Centers for Disease Control says being overweight puts individuals at a higher risk of sleep apnea.

The disorder, characterized by shallow or interrupted breathing during sleep, often goes undiagnosed and can leave sufferers fatigued during the day, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

The safety board said the brakes were working on the New Jersey Transit train traveling at 8 miles (13 km) per hour 38 seconds before the crash. The train then accelerated to 21 mph at impact, twice the speed limit, and emergency brakes were applied one second before the crash.

The 48-year-old engineer underwent a home sleep study in October that concluded “he had severe sleep apnea.” A separate report found he was obese and had gained more than 90 pounds in the previous five years.

In January, the safety board said the Long Island Rail Road train that crashed into a bumper at the busy Atlantic Terminal in New York’s Brooklyn borough appeared to be traveling at more than twice the speed limit of 5 mph.

The engineer was diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnea after the crash, the board said on Thursday.

The LIRR began testing all of its 432 engineers for sleep apnea after the accident and told the board that 34 had been screened through May.

Eight of the 34 had screened positive and had been referred for more testing. One other engineer told the LIRR he had been diagnosed and was being treated for sleep apnea.

The safety board has raised the issue before. In 2014, it said the driver of a train that derailed in New York City, killing four passengers, had an undiagnosed sleep disorder at the time of the 2013 accident.

 

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

 

Engineer in deadly 2015 Amtrak crash charged with manslaughter

Emergency responders search for passengers following an Amtrak train derailment in the Frankfort section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in this file photo dated May 12, 2015. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

By Laila Kearney

(Reuters) – The engineer in a deadly 2015 Amtrak train crash in Philadelphia has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement on Friday, even though local prosecutors had cleared the engineer of criminal wrongdoing earlier in the week.

In addition to eight counts of involuntary manslaughter, former Amtrak engineer Brandon Bostian was charged with one count of causing or risking a catastrophe and numerous counts of reckless endangerment, according to Shapiro’s statement.

The attorney’s general office did not say when Bostian will be arraigned. He is expected to surrender to make a court appearance but that will not likely happen Friday night, officials said.

The Philadelphia district attorney’s office on Tuesday said it did not have enough evidence to charge Bostian and closed the case.

But a Philadelphia municipal court judge on Thursday ordered the charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment against Bostian to be revived.

The district attorney’s office had said evidence indicated the derailment was caused by the engineer operating the train far in excess of the speed limit, but it found no evidence that he acted with criminal intent.

To avoid a conflict of interest, prosecutors referred the case against Bostian to Shapiro’s office.

Under state law, Friday marks the two-year deadline to charge Bostian in the May 12, 2015, crash, which killed eight people and injured more than 180.

In May 2016, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a report that Bostian was probably distracted by radio traffic when the crash occurred.

A federal judge in October approved a record $265 million settlement for the accident victims. A lawyer for Bostian did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Additional reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Leslie Adler)

New York train crash injures more than 100 commuters

Emergency Vehicles gathered around train crash in NYC

By Jonathan Oatis

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A New York City train derailed at a downtown Brooklyn terminal during Wednesday’s morning rush hour, injuring more than 100 commuters in the metropolitan area’s second major rail accident since late September.

Emergency crews swarmed Atlantic Terminal after the Long Island Rail Road train went off the tracks inside the busy transportation hub at 8:20 a.m. local time, the New York City Fire Department said.

While none of the injuries were life-threatening, at least 11 people were sent to the hospital, Deputy Assistant Chief Dan Donoghue said at a briefing at the crash site. Between 600 and 700 people were on the train, he said.

The train, arriving from the Queens neighborhood of Far Rockaway, failed to stop on time. Traveling at a fairly slow speed, it derailed after striking a bumping block, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at the briefing.

About 103 people were injured, the fire department said in a Twitter message. The front two cars of the six-carriage train were severely damaged. The station’s partitions and bumping block, which prevents railway vehicles from going past the end of a section of track, were also damaged.

Passengers said the blood and chaos following the derailment was frightening.

“There were people crying,” said Aaron Neufeld, a 26-year-old paralegal who commutes on the rail line daily. “I saw some bloody faces.”

Neufeld, who was riding in the second car, said the train appeared to be approaching normally until it crashed, knocking passengers on top of one another and shattering glass windows.

“Bags went flying,” he said. “People were thrown to the ground.”

The engineer was probably responsible for failing to stop the train before it hit the bumper, said Tom Prendergast, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency that runs the railroad.

The train was traveling between 10 and 15 miles per hour as it approached the bumper, he said, which is standard.

“At that speed, it’s pretty much the locomotive engineer’s responsibility to stop the train,” Prendergast said as he stood beside Cuomo at the briefing. Investigators will interview the engineer, the conductor and brakeman to determine the cause of the accident, he said.

There were no major service disruptions for other Long Island Rail Road lines at the terminal, an MTA official said.

Earlier, officials said crews were working to restore service at the terminal by the evening rush hour.

In late September, a New Jersey Transit train crashed into a terminal in Hoboken, New Jersey, killing one woman and injuring 114 people, including the engineer.

Cuomo, who has made infrastructure improvements a centerpiece of his agenda, said Wednesday’s incident was minor in comparison. The most serious injury in the crash was a broken leg, he said.

“There was extensive damage in Hoboken,” Cuomo said. “That train was coming in much faster, did much more damage.”

The U.S. Federal Railroad Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board said they were sending investigators to the scene.

The Long Island Rail Road is the United State’s largest commuter rail system, serving more than 330,000 passengers a day, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

Atlantic Terminal, which also connects commuters to nine city subway lines, is one of the busiest New York stations.

(Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus, David Shepardson and David Ingram; Writing by Laila Kearney; Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Von Ahn)

Three killed, more than 100 hurt in New Jersey morning train crash

Onlookers view a New Jersey Transit train that derailed and crashed through the station in Hoboken, New Jersey, U.S. in this picture courtesy of David Richman taken

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Three people were killed and more than 100 people were injured, some of them critically, when a New Jersey Transit train derailed and crashed through the station in Hoboken, New Jersey during the morning rush hour on Thursday, U.S. media and a transit official said.

MSNBC reported that three people were killed, citing medical officials.

There were well over 100 people with injuries, many of them with critical injuries, New Jersey Transit spokeswoman Jennifer Nelson told reporters. She did not say if there were any fatalities.

Dramatic pictures posted by commuters showed a train carriage that appeared to have smashed right through the station concourse, collapsing a section of the roof, scattering debris and wreckage and causing devastation.

ABC News said on its website that New Jersey Transit was reporting many passengers were trapped.

Hoboken lies on the west bank of the Hudson River across from New York City. Its station, one of the busiest in the metropolitan area, is used by many commuters traveling into Manhattan from New Jersey and further afield.

Linda Albelli, 62, said she was sitting in her seat in one of the rear cars when the train approached the station. She said she knew something was wrong a moment before the impact.

“I thought to myself, ‘Oh my god, he’s not slowing up, and this is where we’re usually stop,'” Albelli said. “‘We’re going too fast,’ and with that there was this tremendous crash.”

Passengers helped each other off the train and onto the platform. They ultimately had to cross the tracks to get to safety, she said: “When we got on the platform there was nowhere to go. The ceiling had come down.”

The injured sat on benches in the station while they waited for first responders, said Albelli, who lives in Closter, New Jersey. She did not know how many had been hurt.

“There was just so much, a lot of people in need of attention,” she said. “There were a lot of people who were really hurt.”

The train had about five or six carriages and was not full because many passengers exit at Secaucus, Albelli said.

New Jersey Transit said in a post on Twitter that rail service in and out of Hoboken was suspended due to a train accident.

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey did not have an estimate of when PATH service will resume, a spokesman said.

The Federal Railroad Administration said in post on Twitter that its investigators were en route to the scene.

New Jersey State Police said it was sending “multiple assets” to the station and monitoring the situation.

The worst passenger train crash in recent years in the United States was the crash of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia in May, 2015 that killed eight passengers and injured 186.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney, David Ingram and Amy Tennery in New York; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Tim Ahmann in Washington; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Frances Kerry)