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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Passenger Train Crash in Hoboken, N.J.; Interview with Freight Engineer; Rep. Sires Brief on Train Crash; Hospital Briefing on Train Crash Passengers. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 29, 2016 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: People who were there -- you just heard some from the New Jersey Transit worker -- people who were there are describing hearing an explosion when the train hit. That New Jersey Transit worker, Mike, he says the first car actually went partially airborne with the impact when it hit.

The video we are seeing from the New Jersey Transit hub really gives some idea of the scope of the damage and what people went through here. The roof of the terminal collapsed. Debris absolutely everywhere. You hear people on this video yelling.

Emergency crews are still tending to victims at this moment. The number of injured and dead, we always want to stay still very fluid right now as more information is coming in.

Investigators are just now starting to get on the scene to try to figure out what happened and why this happened. The National Transportation Safety Board telling CNN just a short time ago that it is launching an investigation into the crash.

Let's listen in right here.

WILLIAM BLAINE, FREIGHT ENGINEER: -- most likely it comes on. It will stop that train, everything.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But the engineer has sole manual control of that train as it's coming into the terminal. If he has his hand on that throttle, can that override the alert system, safety system?

BLAINE: Actually, the alerter won't come on if you are operating. It only comes on, say in case of, say he passes out, heart attack, anything, god forbid, that alerter will come on. Actually pulling into a station like that, any station, really, with a bumper, your speed should be like five to three, one mile an hour, ready to stop right away. If you look from there, coming in there, you got to be down to 10, no more miles an hour coming in there. I will assume something happened to that engineer. It had to.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What do you think he was going?

BLAINE: When I came out of Dunkin' Donuts 30 seconds after it happened, I looked to the right, I just saw the train in the building, I went, whoa, that train had to come in about 30 miles an hour. Maybe a little more. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you explain what you saw?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You said there was an override system to prevent that?

BLAINE: The override system would come on like within 30 seconds of touching the throttle, really. It should come on. When I ride an engine -- I have been an engineer 17 years. When I'm on a train and I'm running and no matter what speed it is, if I'm running the train actually and I run on Jersey Transit, if I'm on the train and just say I just maybe fall asleep or pass out, have a heart attack, say the 30 seconds starts, I mean, the 60 seconds, I'm sorry, 60 seconds starts when I pass out. So when I close my eyes and pass out, 60 seconds starts counting. So I didn't touch that throttle in 60 seconds the light starts beeping. Beep, beep

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is it a button?

BLAINE: It's built on all trains. That sucker will come on. I run Amtrak every day, too. It will stop the train.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: In 60 seconds, though?

BLAINE: The train is not like a car. It won't stop like a car. It will slide still but it will stop that train. It won't throw people, where people get hurt. It will slow it down, bring it right to a stop. But depending how fast you're going.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You think something happened within the last minute of this train entering the station?

BLAINE: Of course. Of course. As an engineer for about 17 years, heart attack, maybe, you just passed out, I don't know, sugar diabetes, something. That train never should have came in like that, period. Nowhere near that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What did you see?

BLAINE: Well, thing about it is, I got off at track two. You got two, three, four, five tracks that go up. You got bumpers on all those tracks. So I got off at track two on Jersey Transit. Engineer's still on the train. I got off at the head end, I walked around track two where the bumper's at, track three where the bumper's at, track four, track five is where I heard the train came in at. So I walked past, I was texting my employee, conductor of mine, co- worker, as I was walking. I went into Dunkin' Donuts, as soon as I went into Dunkin' Donuts, 30 seconds later I turned to look at the menu, you just heard kaboom! And you could hear it got quiet because first thing you're going to think of, terrorists. This is how it goes in this country. I thought my god, somebody blew it up. Then I heard water running in. So I ran out and looked to the right, looked to the right, I just saw people laying down and debris and metal all over the place. Then I looked clearer, I saw the train in the wall. I said, oh, my god. So I ran over with everybody and I tried to help people out of the train but a lot of Jersey Transit officials ran in and I just backed up. But the hardest part that hurts me is when I went to run in, I ended up stepping over a dead woman's body. That bothered me. I backed up and looked, said what the -- and nothing you can do for her.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How far was she from the front of the train?

BLAINE: She was on the side of the train, actually. So to me, it looks like probably debris or something might have hit her. I don't think it was the train. Probably metal came down and struck her.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: She was on the train?

BLAINE: I don't believe she was.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: During the accident.

BLAINE: During the accident. Might have been debris that probably hurt her.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What is your name?

BLAINE: William Blaine.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Spell your last name.

BLAINE: B-L-A-I-N-E.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

BLAINE: No, I'm a freight engineer.

[11:05:13] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What's your reaction when you saw this playing out right in front of you knowing that you work these rail lines every day and you never see a scene like this?

BLAINE: How it played out with me is at after I came out of shock, I dot say it's supposed to happen but we as engineers, I'm trained safely. My company don't play. We play safely to run a train. We don't play with sickness or nothing. You ain't healthy, you can't run no train. It just frightened me, shook me up a little bit. People, the frantic of the people and all that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What are the chances it could have been a mechanical failure here? You immediately talk about health. Is there a chance there was a - mechanical failure?

BLAINE: I would say that it could always be a chance of any railroad having a failure, honestly. I can't say, though, I can speculate but I'm just saying --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What other kind of injuries --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is there any system that could have stopped this train?

BLAINE: I understand the alerter works really well. The alerter or the engineer, that's the best way to stop the train. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I know you said you stepped over a dead person's body but what other injuries did you see?

BLAINE: One of the first persons I saw was a guy with a gush in his head. You saw bleeding all over. He had a suit on. He was trying to get up. You could see he was barely, like in shock himself or half in a coma. He tried to get up and you saw him pass back out. He tried one more time and passed back out. I ran over to see if I could help him up but somebody beat me to it so I just ran over to if I could help people get out the train. I ain't lying, America is a family, man. When things like this happen, everybody came together and tried to help people get off the train. It's the woman I crossed over still bothering me.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Were you able to see the engineer at all or did you seem him exit the train?

BLAINE: He was slumped over in front of the train. About 15 minutes later, I think the officers -- I think New Jersey Transit official said where's the engineer. Everybody looked around, I looked around, too, so he walked over and looked up the electrical wiring, looked up at the cab. I did the same thing. I walked over, I looked up, you could see his shirt in front of the cab. We don't know -- I heard he's alive. Somebody thought he was dead. Somebody said he was dead.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How dangerous was the situation afterwards with live wires?

BLAINE: That's what made it a little ting to rescue people. There was water coming down at the same time. There were live wires. It looked like people didn't care. They was just trying to help people get out the train. I thought that was very, very, way, man.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Another eyewitness said the train went over the bumper and hit into the concourse wall. Did you see any injuries on the concourse on the other side of that wall?

BLAINE: No. The first thing I thought had to be people under the train. It was people there and in the area because I just left the area. I looked and seen was any bodies but I didn't see anything really, but who to say by the time they move the train would somebody be under there. I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

BLAINE: Excuse me?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was he helping passengers to get out of the train?

BLAINE: Yeah, trains, all the cars you got certain windows you can pull. They got out safely but they was really shaken up. You could see women crying, like men were crying. There were cuts and scars and bruises. You could see that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When people were walking away from the first car?

BLAINE: Walking away? They were trying to turn away. But a lot of folks were being carried away as well. They was stumbling and all that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was there any physical damage to any of the cars after the first car?

BLAINE: The way I saw it, I know the front of the engine was damaged where the engineer was in, but you couldn't see none of the rest of the train because you couldn't get back there to see it.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: As an engineer, if you have a train that is speeding into a train station, what is the protocol? What measures are you supposed to take inside of that cabin?

BLAINE: If the engineer's alert, his first thing to do is dump the train. You have to dump, meaning take all -- a passenger has 110 pounds in the brake bite. You have to dump all that out.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Put the train into an emergency procedure?

BLAINE: Um-hum. Emergency procedure. Like I said, it's nothing we heard. I know that kaboom just scared me. It's kind of interesting to find out really what happened, why that train come in like that. I have to say the engineer probably was wounded or something happened. That's the only thing I can say.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What's your position again?

BLAINE: I'm an engineer.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You have been running trains in Virginia?

BLAINE: 17 years, I have been running trains. I started with Conrail but work for Norfolk Southern Railroad right now.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How often are you on these tracks?

BLAINE: I run on Jersey Transit. I'm on these tracks five days a week, Monday -- five days a week, usually about 10n hours.

[11:10:09] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is this a challenging station to enter into? Is it just like any other station?

BLAINE: It's challenging if you're qualifying. Otherwise, it's a safe station. I believe, it's been operating for a long, long time. Jersey Transit is good, very good at what they do.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you say qualifying?

BLAINE: I was qualifying on a route. Actually, from Broad Street to Hoboken, so I was in the front with the engineer.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you tell us more about the moment when you saw the body?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Suki, Scott, are you guys there right now?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You said you tried to help. What happened there?

BLAINE: I went over to try to help people get out the train. Lot of Jersey Transit officials was already on it. They was on it. Despite their own lives, they were in there pulling people out with electrical wires, rain and water all over the place. That was very, very, very really horrific to do something like that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What was your impression?

BLAINE: I was in shock. I couldn't believe a train was up like that. I saw the people first, because when I saw them laying around I was wondering like wow. I saw the debris, then I saw the train and I know actually what happened right away.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You saw the body there?

BLAINE: Yeah. Yeah. I practically stepped over it.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Where were you when this happened? How did you hear about it?

BLAINE: I was there. I was there qualifying on Jersey Transit and I got off a train about maybe 10 feet away, you know, from where the accident happened. So I would say 30 seconds later, if I didn't go into Dunkin' Donuts I would probably be hurt or wounded or maybe not be here myself.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What's the name of your title?

BLAINE: I'm William Blaine. I'm an engineer.

(CROSSTALK)

BLAINE: B-L-A-I-N-E.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How many bodies did you see on the ground?

BLAINE: I saw about three. Two of them was trying to get up with gashes in their head and all that. I went to help one but somebody ran over and helped pull him up. Then when I turned towards the train, lot of people just ran to help People out the train. I ran over as well but lot of folks jumped in so I couldn't do much. I stepped over a body so that kind of bothers me.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It was a woman?

BLAINE: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Man? BLAINE: Woman.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I'm (INAUDIBLE) from (INAUDIBLE) Radio. Could you go on live with us if I call the studio?

BLAINE: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: Shocking. We didn't expect that at all. It just happened within a second. It was shocking to see all these people with so much blood everywhere. It was just one of the things I probably will remember for awhile. I'm hoping that woman was OK because she was laying down for like a long time even though they couldn't even move her. Just looking at her leg completely cut side to side, it was very, very scary.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: Yeah. He was walking to take the light rail. That's where the train hit. That's why he called me. He was like I'm OK, I'm OK. I was very shocked.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You rushed here?

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: BLAINE: Yeah. I was there, I was there for awhile. I was taking video.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: Yes. I have to go, guys.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is your husband in the hospital now?

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: No. He's not in the hospital. He's OK. He had some blood --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: Yeah -- on his suit.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you just tell us what you saw when you got here to the scene? You said your husband was here at the time.

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: We were both together. That why -- it was just something we didn't expect to happen. He just missed it because he was inside the station when that happened and everybody was running. At first we didn't see all the people injured. Then they stopped coming out of the station one after another one. I was standing right there and you just see them one after another one. It was like so much blood. It was just very scary. I'm not sure, hopefully everybody's OK. I sent the video to whoever asked me.

I have to go, guys. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What's your name? (CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Let's go live to Jean Casarez at the scene of the crash.

Jean, we are hearing a lot from witnesses. We got a lot of interesting detail from that engineer who has been running New Jersey Transit for 17 years about they think this train was just going too fast, it should not have been going at that speed going in. What are you hearing?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we are hearing right now is that officials are being briefed on the latest and we are going to have a press conference with those local officials at 1:00 eastern time this afternoon. We I think can get the official word of what is happening.

This morning, what I have told you is that I have just seen an inordinate amount of fire engines and firefighters. I want you to look right here. Now you see the city of New Jersey, an emergency vehicle is driving by, but you see all of those officials over there. Right there. At one point, there were so many fire engines in this vicinity, many more fire engines than ambulances at this point. I saw at least, at one point in time, 50, I would say, firefighters go into the train station. Now, the police department did tell me that all of the fire was cut off so there's no electricity, all the electricity was cut off inside this train station. But the fire officials remain just standing there.

[11:15:30] And we understand that at least 10 victims are transported to Hoboken University Medical Center.

From my vantage point, we are seeing the emergency workers, we are seeing the firefighters, we are not seeing any victim transport at this point. But the New York City Fire Department did bring in the medical evacuation transport unit, which helped in all of the search- and-rescue called to the scene for those that were trapped inside some of the cars of that train.

But it's a very calm situation here. Just everyone you can tell is doing their job, doing it to the best of their ability and at this point we just need to see the official totals. Now, CNN has confirmed at least one person is deceased in all of this, numerous injuries. And we know 10 people to the local hospital, Hoboken University, which is several blocks away right here.

But 1:00, an official press conference on exactly some facts and figures on today's disaster during rush hour here at the New Jersey Transit train in Hoboken, New Jersey train in Hoboken, New Jersey.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Jean, a couple more pieces of information CNN is just getting in. Number one, we are told there's an active rescue operation under way. Details about what exactly that entails are scant right now, but we are told that rescue operation is still active.

Number two, Deborah Feyerick is reporting from her sources that the engineer was removed from the train and is unresponsive or was unresponsive when he or she was removed from that train.

Number three, you reported 10 people being taken to the Hoboken University Hospital. We also learned that 10 patients have been taken -- sorry, 10 are in serious condition at the Jersey City Medical Center, 10 in serious condition, 40 minor injuries. Now you are seeing the numbers getting up of those injured minute.

Jean, when we saw some of the pictures and heard from the witnesses the idea that this train went through the bumper, actually hitting the ceiling, causing the roof to collapse, is there concern about the structural integrity of this building right now?

CASAREZ: Well, I think there definitely is. Search-and-rescue came in to shore up that roof. I think one reason you see so many fire engines and firefighters is because of the structural integrity, because of people needing to be evacuated. Search-and-rescue is being a pivotal part of all of this right here. We know that New Jersey State Police have brought in search-and-rescue. We do know the New Jersey State Police helicopter is right here positioned to take off. Off. But we are right here on the water's edge. Here in Hoboken the train station, very historic train station, is right on the water's edge so that helicopter does have a landing pad right here if it has to take off. It has not. But just the presence of so many firefighters, I think, just into structures, firefighters get into areas that the people can't when there are dangerous situations and obviously there was a need here, they were all called here, all responded, but it's a calm scene. Everybody doing their job. We are not hearing ambulances at this point. I have not heard them. One police officer told me that they had already been transported but with so many victims you have to wonder if everyone has been transported or if people are still trying to get out of that train at this point -- John?

BERMAN: All right, Jean Casarez for us. A 1:00 p.m. news conference scheduled. Jean, let us know what you hear.

BOLDUAN: Let's get over to New Jersey Congressman Albio Sires, joining us right now. He has just been briefed.

Thank you for jumping on the phone with us.

This is your district. What can you tell us? What have you been briefed on?

REP. ALBIO SIRES, (D), NEW JERSEY (voice-over): Well, I have spoken to one of the executive directors at the North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue. He tells me there were 76 people in total. One dead, two critical and about wounded and 44 walking wounded with moderate conditions. He also tells me that the conductor is still alive and they are hopeful they can talk to him to see what happened.

The other thing that he mentioned to me is that when the train went off, went up in the air, and it crashed into one of the empty stores. Luckily, it was empty, there was nobody inside, but it went 30 feet up in the air. Congressman, we're hearing there is an active rescue operation under

way. Have you heard that there are people still trapped either inside the car or perhaps under some of the rubble in the station?

[11:20:10] SIRES: The person I spoke to didn't say anything to me that there's still people inside the train. Wouldn't be surprised. It's pretty serious. Yes.

BOLDUAN: You have traveled, you have been in this terminal, I'm sure, numerous times.

SIRES: Many times.

BOLDUAN: More than you can count. When you see this video we have been showing all morning that we have been getting in from social media and otherwise, can you give me your reaction to this?

SIRES: Well, it's a miracle it's only one casualty. I know there were two critical but when you know the amount of people that use that train station, the amount of traffic that it gets and actually the train just went airborne, what I'm told, it is a miracle that not many people, not many more

BERMAN: What we have been hearing from witnesses is that, generally speaking, a train as it pulls into that station decelerates down to just a few miles an hour before it leans up against the bumper there and witnesses are telling us it really didn't slow down at all. Again, as someone who has ridden into that station, you know, you are standing up when a train's about to pull into a station, you are standing up, which means if there's anything that goes wrong with it, you are really vulnerable, not to mention the people standing outside there.

SIRES: You are absolutely right. People are trying to rush to work, trying to catch the ferry, trying to get into the city, trying to take tubes into the city. It's a very active area. Unfortunately, a lot of people stand up because they want to make it on time to wherever they're working. So you know, when something like this happens, it's very serious.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Congressman Albio Sires, thank you for jumping on the phone. We will check back with you.

We will take a quick break.

BERMAN: When we come back, we will have Governor Chris Christie on the phone with us.

Again, the latest information, at least one person dead, maybe 100 hurt as a passenger train crashed into or through the train station in Hoboken, New Jersey. Chris Christie is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [11:26:22] BERMAN: The breaking news this morning comes from Hoboken, New Jersey, where at 8:45 a.m., a passenger train crashed into or struck the Hoboken terminal in that town. We are told it was train number 1614. Again, the crash happened at 8:45 a.m. As of now, we are told one person is dead, as many as 100 people injured and we are told there is an active rescue operation under way.

BOLDUAN: The video, we will continue to show you video from the scene, the video shows, really tells the story. This is new video just in that we want to wk you through. We are seeing it as well for the first time. We are told that the reason there's a blur on the screen is that is covering -- that's a body, presumed a dead body. That is why we are covering that with a blur. Just the mass destruction of the train, the roof, you can see part of it collapsed.

Believe this might be a hospital news conference. Let's take you there.

JOSEPH SCOTT, CEO, JERSEY CITY MEDICAL CENTER: There are three serious patients with orthopedic injuries, some internal injuries and deep lacerations. They are being treated by trauma surgeons as we speak. In addition, there are a handful of other patients who are currently being evaluated for their injuries in the emergency room. Approximately 40 patients are being treated as well for walking types of injuries and they are being evaluated as well. So that's where we stand right now. All hands are on deck with all physicians, all surgeons, our specialty surgeons, specialty physicians as well as critical care nurses and we are -- we plan well and are actually very much in gear to handle this type of emergency.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

SCOTT: It's 40 walk-in and nine to 11 in the emergency room.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you describe the injuries?

SCOTT: I would rather not describe until I have a better idea what's going on but they are under constant care and supervision by our trauma surgeons and critical care nurses.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

SCOTT: We have a triage center there. I don't know whether they came from the train or from the terminal. My understanding is most came from the train. Discharges, soon or later today?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

SCOTT: As far as the walking people that are being evaluated, hopefully in the next hour to two hours but I will know better when I go back inside.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

SCOTT: Some of them are critical and some of them are serious.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How many would you say are life-threatening?

SCOTT: None of them at this point are life-threatening. They are critical and stable and being carefully monitored and treated by our surgeons.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you expecting more patients from that scene? Are you standing by for that as well?

SCOTT: I think we have received the last of our patients.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you explain the difference between level one and level two trauma center?

SCOTT: We handle all types of traumas here. As far as what types of research of certain types of transport, we are a level two trauma center. Unfortunately, we were the trauma center for 9/11, the trauma center for the plane that went into the Hudson. We handle all major traumas. There was no reason to send to Newark.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

SCOTT: There was no reason to send to Newark.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The walking wounded we all saw, how were they transported here?

SCOTT: By bus, by New Jersey Transit bus.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

SCOTT: They are being evaluated. I can't answer that right now.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTIONS)

SCOTT: They're being evaluated right now.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can't you tell if they are going to be leaving today?

SCOTT: I have no answer to that. When I have an answer I'll be glad to let you know.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You said there in serious condition -- (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

SCOTT: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: None are life threatening?

SCOTT: None at this point are life threatening.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How many hospitals --