What Hoboken train crash survivors saw: Pinned victims, blood, ‘mass scramble’
HOBOKEN — Passengers aboard the NJ Transit train that barreled into the Hoboken Terminal platform Thursday morning reported hearing a loud explosion as the train crashed.
"It simply did not stop," WFAN anchor John Minko, who witnessed the crash, told 1010 WINS. "It went right through the barriers and into the reception area."
Witnesses said they saw the train coming into the station at a high speed and crash at the end of the line at the historic terminal, causing a partial roof collapse and other structural damage.
NJ Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder told New Jersey 101.5 the train — No. 1614 on the Pasack Valley Line, which had left Spring Valley, New York and was due into Hoboken at 8:28 a.m. — had derailed from track 5.
A cause for the crash was not immediately known Thursday morning.
Rich Scardaville, who was aboard the train, told the Wall Street Journal that it approached the station normally but suddenly "lurched forward at the last minute."
Then, he said, there was an "ungodly loud bang, like an explosion" before the lights went off and "everyone went flying."
Passenger Bhagyesh Shah said the train was crowded, particularly the first two cars, because they make for an easy exit into the Hoboken station. Passengers in the second car broke the emergency windows to get out.
"I saw a woman pinned under concrete," Shah told WNBC-TV in New York. "A lot of people were bleeding; one guy was crying."
Jamie Weatherhead-Saul was in the first car, and said everything appeared normal, but then the train "just never stopped."
"I couldn't understand like, how it happened, but the train just never stopped. It just never -- it never broke. It just slammed into whatever it was, and then it wasn't until we got out that we saw that the whole front of the building had collapsed," said Weatherhead-Saul, who remembers feeling a collision, but not being sure what it was.
The passenger described a terrifying scene as the woman next to her began screaming when her legs got caught in the train door.
"You don't know what's happening in the moment, but the woman got her legs caught in the door and all we could think was just pull her before the train stops and her legs get amputated," Weatherhead-Saul said.
She said at one point, she saw a train conductor whose "face was completely bloody."
"He came through the window and at that point we still don't know what happened, but we see the whole structure was collapsed," she said. "People are screaming, and the lady next to me said, My legs are caught in the door. So we help her out-- we pull her legs out. And the gentleman is bleeding down his face. And you just don't know; everything just got dark."
Weatherhead-Saul was standing near the door when the crash happened, waiting to exit. She said following the collision, people from another train car actually fell on top of the passengers in her car.
Brian Klein, whose train arrived at the station after the crash, told the Wall Street Journal that transit police ushered everyone aboard his train into a waiting room, "then quickly started yelling, 'Just get out! We don't know if the building is going to hold.'"
Bhagyesh Shah told NBC New York he saw a lot of people bleeding and a woman pinned under concrete Thursday morning at New Jersey Transit's Hoboken station.
Shah says he was in the back of the train but that many people use the front cars, since it makes for an easier exit. He says the train plowed into the platform. He says it lasted only a couple seconds, "but it felt like an eternity."
He tells the TV station that passengers in the second car broke the emergency windows to get out.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-438-1015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.