NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Panic erupted inside a packed Penn Station during the Friday night commute.
First, a disabled NJ TRANSIT train led to delays at the station and across the area.
Then, as frustrated passengers crowded the platforms, Amtrak police used a Taser on a suspect, which some people mistook for the sound of gunshots.
“We received several dozen 9/11 calls from Penn Station and on 34th Street from Seventh Avenue to Broadway. All of those calls were determined to be unfounded,” NYPD Chief William Morris said. “Given our experience dealing with similar situations, we were able to quickly review all the 9/11 calls and determine that there were no actual shots fired.”
Terrified travelers ran in fear for their lives, leaving behind luggage, clothing and even shoes.
“It sounded like gunshots, and then everybody ran down the stairs,” one woman said. “We came down the back and they told us to come up and leave.”
“I honestly I don’t know what happened. Everybody heard a noise and everybody started running,” another said.
“I just heard everybody running and screaming. I panicked,” a woman added.
The MTA tweeted, saying Amtrak police placed two people into custody for disobeying orders and used a Taser on one of them.
Amtrak later released a statement, saying the suspect was in custody. It also said the station was not evacuated and remained open.
“They pushed him up against that pillar, and he skidded away, one of them shouted, ‘Tase him!’ The two grabbed him, the crowd cleared, he Tased him. He went sideways, ran to the back,” one witness told Smeltz.
A short time later, there were reports of shots fired at nearby Macy’s Herald Square.
“They didn’t say gun or anything like that, but they were just running and screaming. So we were under the impression they saw something,” shopper Carlene James said. “I grabbed my two kids and I ran to the back of the Tommy Hil — the closet, to the back room.”
Police said those reports were unfounded as well.
As CBS2’s Jessica Moore reported, the NJ TRANSIT earlier train lost power in the Northeast Corridor tunnel as it approached Penn Station around 3 p.m.
Approximately 1,200 passengers were trapped on board for three hours without lights, water or instructions. They have since been safely transported to the station once the disabled train was repaired.
“I was on the train for about three and a half hours,” passenger Johnny Martinez said. “As the time went by, the first hour, people started to get hysterical. Somebody tried to jump off the train. He actually he broke the window trying to get out.”
“There was no rescue protocol. They had no idea what they were doing. They were changing the instructions. They were saying things inside, like the train blew up,” fellow passenger Carlos Barrezueta said. “This is something unacceptable. Our infrastructure is crumbling. We have to take those trains every single day, and there’s not a basic, basic rescue protocol for people there.”
One man, waiting with flowers for his wife, told WCBS 880’s Mike Smeltz he’s become shell-shocked as a rider.
“I never know what to expect, but I’ve just grown to be paranoid as I’m leaving work or coming to in the morning,” he said.
Six people from the disabled train were treated for non-life-threatening injuries, the FDNY said
The FDNY later tweeted, saying 13 others were hurt during the chaos that followed.
NJ TRANSIT officials released a statement, apologizing for the incident and saying they’re working with Amtrak, who owns and operates Penn Station, to determine the cause.
“To our customers who were significantly delayed today on Northeast Corridor train #3850, and other customers who were impacted by this incident, we deeply apologize for your experience, and I would like to hear from you,” the statement read in part.
People traveling between New York and New Jersey can expect to experience delays throughout the night.
NJ TRANSIT tickets and passes will be cross-honored on PATH and buses.
Amtrak said its crews are working to restore power in the south tube of the Hudson Tunnel. In the meantime, trains traveling through the north tube will be down to a single track.