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Investigation Of New York Train Derailment Continues


An important detail today in the case of a commuter train that derailed Sunday in the Bronx as it rounded a tight curve. Four people were killed in the accident and more than 60 were injured. At a briefing this afternoon, the National Transportation Safety Board announced that the train approached that faithful turn, going more than 50 miles an hour too fast. NPR's Margot Adler has the latest.

MARGOT ADLER, BYLINE: Near the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx, close to where the Harlem and Hudson Rivers merge, the Metro-North train from Poughkeepsie is supposed to slow from 70 to 30 miles an hour as it rounds a strong curve. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been quick to say, as he did this morning on CNN, that the curve can't be it.

GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: The turn has been here for decades. Trains negotiate the turn all day long. Something else had to happen, and we want to find out what it is.

ADLER: He implied the issue might be speed, and this afternoon, the National Transportation Safety Board's Earl Weener gave startling statistics.

EARL WEENER: The train was traveling at approximately 82 miles per hour as it went into a 30-mile-an-hour curve.

ADLER: This, again, when the speed was supposed to be reduced from 70 to 30 miles per hour. Weener also said the throttle was reduced to idle six seconds before the engine stopped in the derailment, and the break pressure went from 120 psi to zero five seconds before the engine stopped, resulting in the full application of the breaks.

WEENER: At this point, we are not aware of any problems or anomalies with the breaks.

ADLER: Senator Chuck Schumer, also at the news conference, said when he heard the speed, he gulped. The NTSB will be on the ground for at least seven days, investigating the tracks, the signaling system, and continuing interviews with the four members of the crew. The crew will also be tested for alcohol and drugs. This NTSB investigation could take up to a year. Two data recorders were retrieved - one from the front car and one from the back car of the seven-car train. They've been sent to Washington.

About 26,000 people normally take the Hudson line on weekdays, and their morning commute today was frustrating and time consuming. Many had to mix a combination of shuttle busses and crowded subways. Caroline Louissiant was waiting for the subway at 242nd Street in the Bronx. She lives in Yonkers, near the derailment, and had to take a shuttle bus to the subway this morning.

CAROLINE LOUISSIANT: It's going to add at least another hour to my commute because I work on Wall Street. I don't have a choice. I mean, it's the only way I get to work. But it's a little frustrating, and it's a little scary with the derailment.

ADLER: Lincoln Cleveland from Bedford Hills arrived in Grand Central Terminal. His commute...

LINCOLN CLEVELAND: Very smooth, except crowded as all get out. Really, really crowded. I don't know if everybody came over from the Poughkeepsie line.

ADLER: Many of them did. Governor Cuomo says he hopes to get full service back toward the end of the week. Metro-North has had a very good safety record over 31 years, but there have been recent problems. Sunday's derailment came six months after an eastbound train derailed in Connecticut and was struck by a westbound train. Seventy-three people were injured. Last June, a freight train filled with garbage derailed not far from the site of this recent accident.

Meanwhile, fearing a chemical leak, giant cranes cleared wreckage and righted the overturned cars this morning. Most of the injured now are out of hospitals, but there are still several in critical condition, and a number of others have serious injuries. Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.


SIEGEL: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Margot Adler died on July 28, 2014 at her home in New York City. She was 68 and had been battling cancer. Listen to NPR Correspondent David Folkenflik's retrospective on her life and career