Updated at 12:57 a.m., May 18, 2013
FAIRFIELD, Conn. (CBSNewYork) — Two Metro-North trains collided just east of the Fairfield Metro Station, authorities announced Friday evening.
About 700 people were on board the trains when one heading east from New York City’s Grand Central Station to New Haven derailed about 6:10 p.m. just outside Bridgeport, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials said.
The train was hit by a train heading west from New Haven to Grand Central on an adjacent track, MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said. Some cars on the second train also derailed as a result of the collision.
Emergency workers quickly responded to the scene, the MTA said. Metro-North referred to the incident in a news release as a “major derailment.”
“This is a very serious incident,” Gov. Dannel Malloy said during a briefing later Friday night.
GALLERY: Connecticut Train Collision
Malloy said at least 60 people aboard the two trains were injured and transported to local hospitals. Of those injuries, five were said to be critical, including one very critical, the governor added. WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane reported 22 of the injured were taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital and Bridgeport Hospital.
The National Transportation Safety Board announced that it had dispatched a team to Fairfield to investigate the collision.
Malloy said travelers should prepare for train service on the New Haven Line to end at Bridgeport and South Norwalk through at least Monday. The derailment is expected to have a “big impact” on Northeast Corridor service for at least a couple of days, the governor added.
“It’s pretty devastating damage to a number of cars. It’s clear that these cars came into contact,” Malloy said.
Passenger Rowana Shepherd that’s exactly what happened — and then some.
“All of a sudden the train started to shake a little bit … like something was bumping into it,” Shepherd told CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis by phone. “One entire compartment from the other train was completely ripped open. The whole side was gone and people were lying in between the trains.”
“I thought, ‘this is the end, brace yourself,’” passenger Brian McGinn told CBS 2’s Alice Gainer. “Everything just came to a stop. We went flying.”
Adam Weppler of Brooklyn said he was aboard the train bound for Grand Central Terminal when he felt the impact and his car filled with smoke and dust.
“We saw that about 10 feet in front of us, one of the windows had been knocked in. We could see through the windows, our trains were pressed up against each other,” Weppler told Murnane.
Bridgeport Police Chief Joseph Gaudett said all the injured had been attended to, and investigators were beginning to turn their attention to determining the cause of the collision.
“Everybody seemed pretty calm,” he said. “Everybody was thankful they didn’t get seriously hurt. They were anxious to get home to their families.”
“What you’re primarily focused on is making sure all the injuries are taken care of and get transported to hospitals, secure the scene and start the process of the investigation of what happened. And it’s way too early to tell at this point in time what happened,” MTA Chairman nominee Tom Prendergast told 1010 WINS.
Metro-North is operated by the MTA.
Photos taken at the scene showed a train car askew on the rails, with its end smashed up and brushing against another train. Seats were broken and windows were shattered, but the conditions of the drivers of both trains — who took the brunt of the accident — were not immediately known, CBS 2’s Dennis reported.
“The driver was sitting on one side of the train, but the other side where the driver was sitting was completely destroyed,” Shepherd said.
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch told reporters, including WCBS 880’s Murnane, that the damage to the infrastructure around the wreck is tremendous.
Finch described the rails beneath the wreck as torn up and twisted like steel ribbon, Murnane reported.
The mayor said he is bracing for a long-term repair effort. Finch added that the area has just two tracks available due to ongoing repairs on the New Haven Line. The two available tracks are currently out of service due to the derailment.
“Obviously, we don’t have alternative tracks to go to because of the state of the replacement of the catenary system,” Malloy said. “Normally, we would have four tracks in this area. We could switch traffic to at least one of those under normal conditions. We’re not able to do that.”
Malloy said nothing indicated that the collision was anything other than an accident, but said federal authorities will determine the exact cause of the incident.
Recovery could come sometime Monday, but service restoration is dependent on the investigation, Malloy announced.
The derailment has also caused service suspensions on Amtrak.
Amtrak Acela Express and Northeast Regional service is suspended indefinitely between New York Penn Station and Boston, the train company announced Friday evening.
Amtrak service is operating as scheduled between New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC. Springfield Shuttle service between New Haven, Conn. and Springfield, Mass. is also operating as scheduled.
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