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Witness Describes Damage To Hoboken Terminal After Train Crash


At the end of the train tracks inside a terminal in Hoboken, N.J., there's an old iron fence - or there was. A photo taken by a commuter this morning shows that fence ripped aside after a commuter train overshot the end of the tracks and crashed. Some of the ceiling inside the Hoboken terminal collapsed.

The photo was taken by Claudia Bernal. She's an immigration attorney who was on her way to work in New York City when this happened. And she's on the line.

Welcome to the program.

CLAUDIA BERNAL: Good morning.

INSKEEP: What did you see?

BERNAL: As I was about to get on my - on the PATH train, which is the train that brings me from New Jersey to my final destination at the World Trade Center, somebody was - a lady screaming - not screaming, but notifying people that we wouldn't be able to make it into the station because there was a train crash. So people were not taking this person so seriously. We kept walking, me among the rest.

So as I was approaching to the station, I already saw employees of New Jersey Transit and police officers screaming at - rather directing people to take an alternative route because there was an incident at the station. I continued walking, and as I was approaching to the entrance to the PATH train is when I saw the train. And I took the picture that I posted...


BERNAL: It was the same that had smashed completely into the train station. So we were redirected to the back of the terminal...

INSKEEP: So now, Claudia Bernal, it sounds like you arrived a short time after this crash. You saw that the train had overshot the tracks. Did you - did you see wounded people as well?

BERNAL: Yes, but not exactly at the sta - or where the train was. But outside of the station, there was sort of a parking lot where the buses usually dock before they go on their route. So I saw ambulances and first responders already helping people and giving first care to injured people. I saw at least seven or eight of them already being, you know, cured, being healed - helped.

INSKEEP: Looking at the top of your photo here, I see a big green steel girder of the sort that may be used to hold up the roof. How severe was the damage to the building?

BERNAL: It looks like what previous year. I couldn't get any closer because, you know, the police officer would stop us. And they just wanted to get on their job. But the portion that I - if I remember correctly that the portion where the train crashed was an (unintelligible) the entrance of the PATH station and the main lobby where people wait or buy the ticket for the New Jersey Transit.

INSKEEP: OK, well, Claudia Bernal, thanks very much for sharing what you saw and what you know. I really appreciate it, and I'm glad you're OK this morning.

BERNAL: Thank you, and you're welcome.

INSKEEP: She's an immigration attorney who was commuting this morning - or attempting to commute - when she discovered the train crash in Hoboken, N.J.

NPR correspondent Joel Rose is based not too far from Hoboken, N.J., and he's in our studios this morning. Joel, will you help us understand this terminal, its place in the transportation network in New York, how important it is?

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Well, sure, Steve. It's a main point of entry into Lower Manhattan for thousands of daily commuters. It's a terminal where commuter rail trains come in from all across northern New Jersey - Bergen County, Essex County, really all the counties that...

INSKEEP: Millions of people live there, sure.

ROSE: Millions of people and tens of thousands of whom work in Lower Manhattan and count on this terminal. This is where the rail - the commuter rail trains terminate at this - at Hoboken. You also have the light rail that goes up and down the river. And as our witness was telling us, it's the entrance to the PATH train that goes under the Hudson River, into Lower Manhattan and the World Trade Center. So that's, you know, tens of thousands of people every day are going through there on their way to work...

INSKEEP: We had another witness earlier who described this train speeding into the station and crashing over the - over the end. I bet you've been on one of those trains. Don't they kind of creep into the station normally?

ROSE: Yeah. And sometimes it's almost frustratingly slow, I have to say. I mean, I've used this terminal when I'm heading down into Lower Manhattan and as an alternative when Penn Station isn't - when the tunnel into Penn Station isn't working for whatever reason...

INSKEEP: The main station in New York...

ROSE: Yeah.

INSKEEP: ...Yeah.

ROSE: So, yeah, and you're right, the trains approach very slowly. And it's - it would be totally unusual for a train to be going there in full speed, as our witnesses have described.

INSKEEP: OK. Joel, thanks very much.

ROSE: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: And we are continuing to track the news of a New Jersey Transit train crash in Hoboken, N.J., dozens injured. No firm word on how many are injured or killed. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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