Fairfield Police Chief Says Composure, Good Info Likely Saved Lives

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (CBSNewYork) – The 911 tapes of passengers on the New Haven Line trains calling for help after the derailment and crash outside of Bridgeport in May have been released.

One of the passengers on the two trains was quick to call 911 for help. The woman calmly explained to the dispatcher that the northbound train she was on derailed.

DISPATCHER: “Fairfield 911, where’s your emergency?”
FEMALE PASSENGER: “It’s on a Metro-North train going north between Fairfield and Bridgeport. We have derailed and we have been also hit by another train.”
DISPATCHER: “You were hit by another train?”
FEMALE PASSENGER: “And we derailed.”

Within seconds, the first caller to 911 had first responders heading in the right direction with accurate information about the derailment and collision.

Authorities praised the woman for her composure during those uncertain first few moments on May 17.

FEMALE PASSENGER: “We’re gonna hit somebody over there.”
DISPATCHER: “Are you injured?”
FEMALE PASSENGER: “I’m not injured. The people in my car don’t seem to be injured. I don’t know what the extent of the injuries are.”
DISPATCHER: Any fire that you know of?
FEMALE PASSENGER: “We smell smoke.”

In all, 76 people were hurt in the incident, but police said it clearly would’ve been worse had cool, calm commuters not phoned in accurate information quickly.

MALE PASSENGER: “We ran off the rails completely. It was a terrible train accident.”
DISPATCHER: “Are you inside the train sir?”
MALE PASSENGER: “Yes the doors are open are there are a bunch of people trying to get off right now.”

Authorities said they released the tapes as a public example of how to behave in a crisis.

“Textbook example of remaining calm in a crisis that’s unexpected,” Fairfield Police Chief Gary MacNamara told CBS 2’s Lou Young.

MacNamara added he thinks the quick-acting passengers likely saved lives.

“I think they did not only did they provide that information but just by their demeanor, you know that they were a calming influence in that train,” he told Young.

On a day when so much went wrong, panic didn’t make matters worse.

Federal crash investigators are concentrating on a rail joint that may have caused the eastbound train to derail.

Final results of the investigation are likely months away.

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