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Derailment highlights a bad year for Metro-North

Stephon Johnson | 12/5/2013, 11:27 a.m.
Derailment of a Metro-North train near Spuyten Duyvil Station in the Bronx
Metro North

Four dead, 63 injured.

The Sunday morning derailment of a Metro-North train near Spuyten Duyvil Station in the Bronx, sparked by an engineer allegedly “zoning out” while guiding the train, left another black eye on what has been a difficult year for the train service.

Victims were taken to multiple medical facilities like St. Barnabas and Montefiore hospitals in the Bronx. Some also went to New York-Presbyterian. The hospital had this to say about their patients in an emailed statement.

“New York-Presbyterian received a total of 18 patients due to the train derailment,” the statement read. “The four patients received at NewYork-Presbyterian/the Allen Hospital were evaluated, treated and released on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013. New York-Presbyterian/Columbia received 14 patients, of which seven were evaluated, treated and released on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, and seven have been admitted for further treatment.”

As of press time, two of the seven patients admitted remain in critical condition.

The four deaths—Donna Smith, 54, of Newburgh, N.Y.; James Lovell, 58, of Cold Spring, N.Y.; James Ferrari, 59, of Montrose, N.Y.; and Ahn Kissok, 35, of Queens, N.Y.—were the first passenger-related deaths in the Metro-North’s history.

This isn’t the first time a train derailment at Spuyten Duyvil Station sparked travel delays. In July, a garbage train derailed near the same area and wreaked havoc on the Hudson Line’s schedule for a few days. Before that accident, in May, two trains in Connecticut collided on the commuter railroad. Two weeks later, a Manhattan-bound train from Connecticut struck and killed a track foreman.

Before this crash, the Metropolitan Transit Authority had already announced a panel—called the Blue Ribbon Panel—to examine safety issues on New York City Transit, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North.

The accident could potentially cost the MTA tens of millions of dollars in wrongful death and injury claims, but according to a report by Crain’s New York Business, their insurance may cover all but $10 million. Once that $10 million is exhausted, the MTA still has an additional $50 million that it maintains through its captive insurer, First Mutual Transportation Assurance Co. They also have $350 million in liability insurance through carriers in commercial markets.

The MTA jumped into full gear in repairing and rebuilding tracks and clearing debris from the area. On Tuesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the Metro-North would resume more than 98 percent of the regular Hudson Line service in time for Wednesday morning rush hour.

“Thanks to an extraordinary effort and around-the-clock work, over 98 percent of service will be restored for Hudson Line commuters in time for tomorrow morning’s rush hour,” said Cuomo in a statement. “As the NTSB continues its investigation of the derailment on Sunday morning, the MTA is fully cooperating to ensure we find out exactly what caused this horrific incident that took the lives of four individuals and injured many others.”

MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast, in an emailed statement, praised the work of those who grinded around the clock to restore service in the aftermath of the tragedy.

“The extraordinary work of Metro-North forces have enabled a rapid resumption of service, and I commend them,” said Prendergast. He also praised Cuomo for “his continuing leadership during this crisis and all the first responders of the New York Police Department, the New York Fire Department and emergency workers at area hospitals for their quick response and expert assistance in dealing with this tragic incident.”

As for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he was golfing in Bermuda during the incident. While it’s a mere coincidence, it sums up the mayor’s third term in a nutshell.