Christie: Hoboken crash looks like an accident, train was going fast
Gov. Chris Christie, in an interview with New Jersey 101.5's Dennis and Judi Thursday morning, says the deadly train crash that injured 108 people appears to be an accident — but nothing can be ruled out so far.
The governor said one fatality had been confirmed in the crash — and that quick responses not just from NJ Transit employees and first responders, but other commuters, will be shown "to have saved lives in the long run." In the conversation with Dennis and Judi he said 74 people had been injured, but later counts put the number at 108.
He cautioned it's still early in the investigation into the crash, but that from early indications, it appears to be an accident. He said he couldn't address reports the engineer, who survived the crash, may have suffered a medical emergency that contributed to the crash.
The engineer was in critical condition, Christie said. He didn't elaborate on the engineer's condition or say whether that's because of the crash itself, or some other medical problem.
The one thing that's clear, he said: "The train came into the station at a much higher rate of speed than normal."
NJ Transit trains are not equipped with a positive train control system — an emergency, automated braking system meant to slow down speeding trains. NJ Transit last year was awarded an extension on a federal deadline to install such systems until 2018.
Christie told Dennis and Judi he could not address the lack of PTC — saying he doesn't even yet know whether the engineer tried to break — but said as the investigation continues, authorities would look at any safety measures that might have helped.
A deadly Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia was blamed in part on a lack of a PTC system. In the time since, Amtrak has installed PTC on all of its trains from Washington, D.C. to New York.
Christie also said engineers from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will be investigating the structural integrity of the historic Hoboken Terminal, which was severely damaged after the train slammed into the platform and caused partial roof collapse. The The century-old station was repaired after suffering flooding damage after Superstorm Sandy.
"Let's take one step at a time," Christie said.
The New York-New Jersey area is still reeling from a series of bombings that injured dozens, but killed none. Authorities have charged Ahmad Khan Rahami of Elizabeth in the blasts.