NEW HYDE PARK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Crews are still on the scene after a LIRR commuter train derailed in New Hyde Park late Saturday night, injuring 33 people,.
The train derailed after 9 p.m. when a commuter train collided with a work train.
The impact sent the first three cars of the 12-car passenger train off the tracks. The work train then caught fire.
MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast said 33 people were injured, 26 customers and seven employees. Four were injured seriously, with broken bones and cuts to the head. There were approximately 600 passengers on board.
Late Sunday night, service remained suspended in both directions between Hicksville and Jamaica Queens with delays on other branches.
The LIRR hopes to have at least one of the two tracks open by the Monday morning commute, but it is unclear if that will happen.
Crews were able to get the three derailed cars back on track Sunday, but apparently the tracks themselves were damaged in the crash, CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported.
Even if service is restored, commuters who take the Ronkonkoma, Port Jefferson and Oyster Bay branches are being asked to find a different way to work Monday, and the LIRR says they can expect limited service, delays and crowded trains, despite the Columbus Day holiday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the National Transportation Safety Board will be on the scene to investigate the cause of the incident, and more information will be provided following the probe.
“Once we have the facts from NTSB, anything the LIRR can learn from the incident, we will learn,” Cuomo said during a press conference Sunday.
However, the NTSB told CBS2 they are only monitoring and not investigating at this time.
Officials say the work train somehow violated the track space of the commuter train, WCBS 880’s Kelly Waldron reported.
“For some reason, in this particular case, the piece of work equipment – the yellow piece of work equipment – came over into the clearance for the revenue service track at the time,” MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast said. “That’s what we need to investigate: why did that happen.”
Passengers were shaken up, seats were busted and windows were broken by the impact.
Ray Martel was heading home to West Hempstead from Penn Station when he says “all of a sudden the train jolted.”
“I jumped in the middle of the aisle and fell down because I was afraid,” he said. “I knew obviously we had hit something, I didn’t know if it was a tree or branches that might break through windows but it got real scary.”
Mangled metal showed the destruction of the impact, with the facade of the work train completely ripped off.
Outside, firefighters rushed to get the injured help.
Cuomo visited several victims of the crash who were recovering in the hospital on Sunday.
Passenger Jarred Ackerman told CBS’s Dave Carlin, “it was scary, people were screaming, I was holding on.”
He held on so tight he hurt his hand and bit the inside of his cheek.
Ackerman and his friend were in the first car, which he said felt like it might tip all the way over.
“Me and my friend said ‘you know everyone, I think we need to move to the other side of the car because we feel it tipping this way,'” he said.
A few rows ahead of them, people were moaning in pain.
“I believe two people broke their legs, that’s what I heard. There was a guy on the floor who seem to be breathing but he was pretty hurt,” Ackerman said.
They were on their way home from Comic Con after what he described as a perfect day. They boarded the first train and selected the first two seats in the car, but reconsidered and moved four rows back.
“We were literally going to sit in the two seats where the people were hurt,” he said. “We’re not getting in the front of the train, obviously that’s who got it the worst.”
His five-hour ordeal involved waiting for help to arrive, waiting for the third rail to be shut off, and for the most seriously injured to be taken off the train first. Then, he and other passengers in the first car were told to walk about a mile to a station where buses would take them to Huntington.
He said the delays were long and he was getting cold in the rain.
“I would think they would have a better evacuation plan, better contingency plans,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to be on the train for a little while right now.”
As far as the clean up effort, Cuomo said all hands will be on deck to get service back up and running by the Monday morning commute.
“This is a difficult area to get to get to. You have that hill that you have to go up. We’re now looking at it in daylight hours, but just imagine this in the pitch black where you have to get into that car and get injured people out and carry them down that slope, how hard that is,” Cuomo said, praising the work of first responders at the scene Saturday night.
Martel said he will be back on the train Monday but he may not sit in his normal seat near the door.
“I wouldn’t be here today if I was sitting there,” he said.
The LIRR is the busiest commuter railroad in the country carrying more than 300,000 people a day. Since 2011, it has had 15 derailments involving passenger trains.
Stay with CBSNewYork.com as this story develops.