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Aftermath of LIRR Crash: Lawsuits begin

Train Was Going Twice the Speed Limit at Time of Crash

January 6, 2017 By Scott Enman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The train's first car was lifted into the air during the crash. Photo by Aaron Neufeld
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The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) train that crashed into a bumping block as it was entering Atlantic Terminal on Tuesday morning was traveling at more than twice the speed limit, according to National Transportation Safety Board investigator Ted Turpin.

“I will give you that initially, right now, we believe that the collision at the end of the track was over 10 mph,” said Turpin on Thursday at a news conference. “The track speed is 5 mph.”

The incident, which injured more than 100 people, took place around 8:20 a.m. The crash of Commuter Train No. 2817 on Track 6 caused tens of passengers to be thrown into each other and onto the floor. Authorities said that after the train left the tracks, it smashed into a work area and a piece of metal went through the bottom of the car’s floor.

The train had left Far Rockaway station at 7:18 a.m. and was set to arrive at Atlantic Terminal at 8:11 a.m.

“The operating group [on Thursday] finished interviewing the locomotive engineer and I spoke with that investigator and the engineer was unable to recall striking the end of the track,” said Turpin.” “He does recall entering into the station and controlling the speed of the train, but the next thing he realized was after the collision.”

The 50-year-old conductor, who was hired by LIRR in 1999, had started his shift at midnight.

There is “a signal system that controls it coming in at limited speeds,” said MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast on Wednesday. “But when you’re getting to the end it’s the locomotive engineer’s responsibility. And the train’s brakes have to work. All those things have to be looked at in the investigation.”

Witnesses told the Brooklyn Eagle that the entire first car was up in the air, the station was filled with smoke and people were crying.

Aaron Neufeld, who was in the second car of the train, described what happened directly before the crash.

“Some people after the fact have said it seemed like we were going a little bit faster than usual, but I don’t think before it happened anybody really made much of a note of it because people were still standing up and were still walking through the aisle heading towards the doors,” said Neufeld. “Nobody was staying in their seats or anything or showing any concern. Then there was a loud boom and everyone went flying.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday that the worst injury was a woman’s “possible” broken leg.

Since the crash, at least one passenger is suing LIRR and the MTA for injuries suffered during the crash. Personal injury attorney Sanford Rubenstein told the Eagle on Friday that his client Clifford Jones filed a $5 million claim against both organizations for “neck, back and knee injuries.”

“It’s very important for the National Transportation Safety Board to ascertain exactly what happened, so that more New Yorkers do not suffer from these transit crashes,” Rubenstein told the Eagle. “Clearly whether it was human error or equipment failure, the fault for this disaster lies with LIRR and the MTA.”

At press time, Jones was the only passenger to have filed a claim, although it remains to be seen if any other commuters will follow suit.


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