Train Crashes Through Landmark Terminal In Hoboken, N.J.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The train terminal in Hoboken, N.J., is an icon on the Hudson River, known for its green copper siding and a sign advertising a long-dead railroad.
Today, that historic station - that historic terminal is a stop for New Jersey Transit commuter trains. People get off the train there and board a subway going into New York, which is just what Mark Cardona was doing, heading into work on Wall Street when a train near him crashed. And he's on the line.
Mr. Cardona, welcome to the program. Glad you're OK.
MARK CARDONA: Thank you.
INSKEEP: What did you see?
CARDONA: All right, well, I was on my daily morning commute. And usually, typical, you know, New Yorker, you have your coffee. You have your headphones on, and you're kind of rushing through the crowd to get to where you need to be.
This morning I had a phone call that I was on and kind of took my time this morning, thankfully. And as I was going from one side, which is the light rail, which is the first train I take into the other side for the PATH...
CARDONA: ...I - from the corner of my eye, all of a sudden I - it was so quick. What I see is basically the train coming full force. It was almost a scene out of a movie. It was almost like a runaway train. It went straight over the platform and through walls into the terminal's waiting area. From what I saw is, you know, people definitely got trampled over. I'm not sure exactly how many people inside the actual waiting area of the terminal got hit. It took me about three seconds to realize what happened out of my state of shock.
And then next thing you know, you know, the roof started collapsing one-by-one - basically tiles. So it was - basically, if you've ever seen those movies where somebody's running towards the camera and everything behind them starts collapsing closer to them, that's exactly what was going on. People screaming, it was definitely terrifying.
It was just - I wasn't even sure if it was a terrorist attack or anything. I'm pretty sure it was not. I think it was just maybe a malfunction. But for a train to go that speed, it wasn't even, you know, they were just - it wasn't even like the train was approaching the station and just couldn't stop. It was definitely going full force. I don't even know how fast the train was going, but it definitely just flew right by. You had no chance of just kind of dive out of the way. And by the grace of God, it didn't hit me and I'm alive to tell the story.
INSKEEP: I want to...
CARDONA: I'm still...
INSKEEP: I want to make sure that people...
CARDONA: ...Go ahead.
INSKEEP: ....Understand the physical layout of this train terminal. We say terminal because it's the end of the line. Trains are coming from the interior of New Jersey, they're heading toward the Hudson River. The tracks stop. And just beyond the end of the tracks is this large, high-ceilinged waiting room.
And you're telling me, I think, that the train seems to have come into the station at such speed that it smashed through the - there - the block at the end of the line and ended up in the waiting room. You believe it actually got into the waiting room?
CARDONA: Oh, it definitely did. It went - so with that layout, there's that stop. And then there's a large walkway that goes from one side of basically the train station to the other side of the train station.
CARDONA: So on both ends, you know, there's the PATH side and then there's the New Jersey Transit Light Rail side. So basically people - masses commute from one end to the other. And on the other side of that is the large waiting area. It's almost like a Grand Central-looking thing. And, you know, people wait there for their expected trains. So it went over that, over people, through the wall into that large waiting area. So at the end of this whole destruction, you basically see the middle of the train, not necessarily the front end of trains - that was inside that area.
I was able to see - I stuck around a little - I was able to see some people - some rescue teams taking people off the train. There was definitely a lot of shouting, as far as saying I found one here. I'm assuming they're talking about a person that maybe, you know, was pinned under the train or against something.
At that point, I really didn't want to physically see anything. Of course, there's the masses that wanted to take pictures and report it. I was more concerned of anything aftermath, you know, any explosions that may happen. I don't want to stick around for that. So I kind of made sure I got on the nearest light rail back to my hometown in West New York.
INSKEEP: And that's where you are now, in West New York? And you're OK?
CARDONA: I am OK. I am with a friend. The adrenaline has kind of wore off. I'm in a state of shock. And there's no way I can focus on work today, so I'm taking the day off and kind of just meditating, because it's...
INSKEEP: Understood completely.
Now, we saw on social media some of the photos that you mentioned. And pictures do show a ceiling collapse. And it appears to be what - I guess you'd call the train shed, the roof that's over the actual train track area, that seems to have been...
INSKEEP: ...What collapsed, not the main building, right?
CARDONA: Right, not the main building. I'm not sure if there's anything - any destruction in that actual area. You couldn't see it there. I don't even know if you can actually get in at that point from the destruction, but I doubt - in that area the ceiling's pretty high. I doubt there was anything falling from there. But the actual overhead covering from the pathway started to fall, and that's what you'd see.
INSKEEP: Now I want to ask another thing here, Mark Cardona. I'm thinking about New Jersey Transit trains. They have in them what's called a dead man's lever. If the engineer is in some way disabled, is not physically pressing down on this lever, the train just stops. We know that. We know that ordinarily, a train would move very slowly into a terminal because it's the end of the line.
CARDONA: Of course.
INSKEEP: But you're saying that what you saw was a train that appeared to be moving at higher than normal speeds as it moved into the station?
CARDONA: The only thing I really can think of is - and I don't know why - is that movie "Speed" where it was - they was going at full force and basically there's nothing that's going to stop that.
That train was definitely moving at absolute full force. I don't even know how fast trains move, but it wasn't at approaching speed. It was full, full force. The smash was so loud. It - there was definitely - at that point, there was no way of kind of seeing it coming and getting out of the way. There was no warning - this train is about to crash into this place. There was nothing.
I'm not sure what was going on inside of the train, but there were masses of people that were affected by this train. There was no way for them to know. And again, thankfully I was out of its pathway - barely. But just visually seeing that happen is definitely scarring. I have no words for it.
INSKEEP: Well, Mr. Cardona, thank you very much for sharing what you know. And we're glad you're OK this morning.
CARDONA: Thank you so much.
INSKEEP: Mark Cardona is back at home in West New York, N.J. He works on Wall Street and was a commuter inside the Hoboken, N.J. train terminal when a train crashed there.
And we are now going to reporter Nancy Solomon of our member station WNYC in New York City. Nancy, where are you and what do you see?
NANCY SOLOMON, BYLINE: Hi, Steve. I am right outside the Hoboken train terminal. I've been here since minutes after the crash. And I was able to walk around before I was identified as a reporter and kicked out.
You know, the train is up - you have to understand, there's a area of the station where people transfer and walk between trains. And then there's the waiting room.
SOLOMON: And the train came up onto the platform and - where the hot dog stand is and where the stairs that go down to the PATH train are.
INSKEEP: That's the train to New York City? OK, go on.
SOLOMON: So - yeah. So the train came up on to the platform, and the roof collapsed over it.
But I was in the waiting area - the historic waiting area after the crash. And that - it did not enter the waiting area and it did not damage it at all.
SOLOMON: But we are hearing that there are 100 injuries or more. I was there, saw about, you know, 30 or 40 people who were injured. Some are injured critically. We don't know whether the triage area I was in - I don't know whether anyone who was possibly hit by the train on the outside on the platform was there.
The folks I talked to were on the train. They came into the train station too fast. One person I talked to noticed that and braced himself, and he was pretty much OK. He was a little injured. I talked to a woman in the front car who didn't notice what was going on and the first thing she felt was the impact.
So it's - still, there's still quite a bit of chaos here. But we don't really have any word on what happened. But clearly, you know, what I did see with my own eyes, the train did come up onto the platform and took out a big swath of the station.
INSKEEP: You are reminding us that this is a moment when facts may evolve, or our understanding of the facts really may evolve. The facts don't change. We did hear from Mark Cardona, that he thought perhaps the train had gone into the waiting room. You're saying that did not happen. But nevertheless, it did jump the end of the track.
You're saying that you, yourself witnessed what seemed to be dozens of people who were injured. There are reports that it may be more. In any event, very many people are injured.
And what is the situation there now, Nancy Solomon?
SOLOMON: Full of emergency personnel, which of course, you know, when you're in the middle of a crisis, it seems like it takes forever for them to arrive. But they are now here - fire, police, ambulance, county sheriffs. The helipad has a helicopter on it with its propellers running. It's noisy. The press is all here now.
You know, for the first half hour afterwards, it was kind of a surreal state. I was wandering around talking to people. The citizens - the passengers were helping each other. It seemed like it took, you know, a while for emergency med people to get here. So people were just being helped by other passengers. So, you know, I think this is probably pretty typical for...
SOLOMON: ...Any kind of crash. Yeah, go ahead.
INSKEEP: OK. Let me just stop you right there, Nancy. We have to go back to our member stations. But thanks for the update, I really appreciate it.
SOLOMON: You're welcome.
INSKEEP: That's Nancy Solomon of WNYC on the scene of a commuter train crash in Hoboken, N.J., this morning. We'll bring you more as we learn it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.