Investigators found the black box recorder on Friday as they sifted through the twisted wreckage of a commuter train that failed to stop before plowing into a Hoboken, New Jersey, station, killing a woman on the platform and injuring scores of people.
The event recorder was removed late on Thursday from the locomotive at the rear of the NJ Transit train that slammed through an end barrier and into the terminal building during the morning rush hour, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board said on Friday.
Debris was preventing investigators from reaching the other recorder in the train’s front car, he said.
The recorders hold data that includes the train’s speed, throttle position and use of brakes and could offer clues as to why the train, crowded with commuters, failed to stop.
“Right now there are some challenges to the investigation with respect to accessing the wreckage,” the spokesman said.
Train No. 1614, originating in Spring Valley, New York, was at the end of its hour-long southward journey when it crashed, toppling support columns in the early 20th century building. Witnesses described a scene of horror and chaos.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday the train came into the station too fast, but it was unclear why.
It was too early to say whether an anti-collision system known as positive train control (PTC) could have prevented the crash, he said. PTC is designed to halt a train if the driver misses a stop signal, and advocates say it helps to address human error.
WOMAN, 34, KILLED
NJ Transit on Friday suspended train service in and out of the Hoboken terminal, one of the busiest transit hubs in the New York area, accommodating some 60,000 people a day.
NTSB Vice Chairman Bella Dinh-Zarr said at a news conference the investigation was expected to take seven to 10 days.
The crash killed a 34-year-old Hoboken woman who was standing on the platform when the train slammed through the barrier, jumped off the tracks and skidded across the station concourse, the New Jersey medical examiner’s office said. Another 114 people were injured, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told reporters.
NJ Transit said the train’s engineer, or driver, was Thomas Gallagher, a 29-year veteran of the railway. He was taken to hospital for minor injuries and released, and is cooperating with investigators, officials said, without providing further details.
The local CBS TV affiliate in New York said Gallagher had 10 years of experience as a driver and a good work record. It said he was at his home on Friday in Morris Plains, New Jersey, where a police car was parked outside.
Thirteen people from the crash remained at Jersey City Medical Center on Friday morning, spokesman Mark Rabson said. Eleven were in stable condition and two were in guarded condition, and several of them would likely be discharged during the day, he said.
In 2011, a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey train crashed at the Hoboken station, injuring more than 30 people. An NTSB investigation determined the accident was caused mainly by excessive speed.