Dozens Injured After Subway Derailment in Manhattan

Firefighters at the subway station at 125th Street and St Nicholas Avenue. Karsten Moran for The New York Times

For months, the city’s aging transportation infrastructure has served New Yorkers one fresh outrage after another.

Subway meltdowns have become all too frequent, with the number of delays skyrocketing as pieces of antiquated equipment fail regularly. Hundreds of straphangers were recently stranded on a steamy F train in Manhattan that left them struggling to pry open the doors to escape.

Until Tuesday, the main concern for riders had been long and unpredictable delays in a fraying system. But in a flash, the concern shifted from inconvenience to questions about basic safety as two cars on a train in Upper Manhattan veered off the tracks in a jumble of sparks and smoke.

At least 34 people were injured in the derailment, which occurred around 10 a.m., with 17 transported to local hospitals for treatment of minor injuries, according to Fire Department officials.

One passenger aboard the southbound A train, Michelle Ayoub, said she was afraid she would die when the train suddenly lost control as it approached the 125th Street station. She had been frustrated by subway delays but until now had not worried that there was any danger.

“I never thought it was not a safe system,” she said. “I guess now I’m thinking that. I really don’t want to get back on a train.”

The cause of the accident was under investigation, but Joseph J. Lhota, the newly named leader of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the subway, said the train careened off the tracks after its emergency brakes were activated. Asked about the safety of the system, Mr. Lhota said he wanted to “rebuild the confidence” in the agency.

“We transport millions of people every day,” Mr. Lhota told reporters. “We want to do it safely, and we want to do it as quickly and as efficiently as we possibly can.”

It was unclear if the derailment was related to the system’s dilapidated infrastructure. A preliminary investigation found that an “improperly secured piece of replacement rail” that had been stored on the tracks was the cause of the derailment, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said in a statement issued late Tuesday.

In 2015, a G train derailed in Brooklyn, injuring three people, when pieces of a crumbling wall fell on to the tracks — an accident subway officials said amplified the need for infrastructure improvements.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Marc Santora and Emma G. Fitzsimmons