Return to Transcripts main page
AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Train Crash in Hoboken, N.J.; Hospital Briefing on Train Crash Passengers; Chris Christie Gives Update on Train Crash; Witness Describes Train Crash; Train Engineer Describes Train Crash; WFAN's John Minko Talks Train Crash; Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired September 29, 2016 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:30:00] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)
JOSEPH SCOTT, CEO, JERSEY CITY MEDICAL CENTER: 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)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: None are life threatening?
SCOTT: None at this point are life threatening.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How many hospitals --
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A hospital briefing right there. Nine to 11 people in the emergency room being treated from serious to critical condition right now.
Joining us on the phone, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Governor, thanks so much for being with us.
We're thinking of you and your state today.
What can you tell us about what you are being told is happening?
CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R), NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR (voice-over): John, thank you. First off, you know, the train, as of this morning, is being of the investigated with the attorney general taking the lead along with the NTSB and the Federal Railroad Administration. They are coordinating to investigate the cause of the accident. Secondly, we had extraordinary actions by law enforcement and EMS.
All the folks who were trapped in the train have been removed, they have been taken to two local hospitals, one, you just saw on your air, Hoboken. The other one is Jersey City Medical Center. The folks who are injured are being cared for now. It was great work by those folks.
Third, I have been in coordination with Governor Cuomo since this train originated in New York State and there were a number of New York citizens on the train. Governor Cuomo and I are working together to make sure the appropriate actions are taken for the families of the victims.
Fourth, we are working with the port authority of New York and New Jersey, New Jersey Transit, the other agencies to arrange for this afternoon's commute for folks going home, trying to set up a way to get them to Hoboken if they need to get to Hoboken and assuring everyone else that rail service does not at this time appear to be affected to all the other areas of New Jersey, from New Jersey Transit. For those commuting home on either side of the Hudson, Governor Cuomo and I will work to make sure we have contingency plans executed.
Lastly, we need to pray for the one fatality that we did have so far and for the other victims. And if their families need information, they should be contacting those two hospitals directly, either Jersey City Medical Center or Point Care (ph) in Hoboken.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Governor, can we get your thoughts as you saw the video and started getting your briefings coming in of what happened at Hoboken terminal when it crashed at 8:45 this morning. We are still just getting fresh video of the destruction and chaos in that terminal. Your gut reaction when you saw that this morning?
CHRISTIE: Well, just head-shaking, Kate. One thing we do know is that obviously that train was traveling at a fairly high rate of speed. Now, we don't know anything else. The engineer himself has been taken to the hospital and is being treated. We have to investigate all potential causes of the derailment, the accident that happened, but you can see from the level of destruction at the station that this was obviously a train that was traveling at a high rate of speed.
BERMAN: Governor, you just told us all the folks have been removed from the train. The hospital confirming as well people that all people involved in train and also at the station have been rescued so there's no ongoing concern about people there. But what about the building itself? This is an historic train station in Hoboken that thousands and thousands of people pass through every day. Any sense of the damage?
CHRISTIE: Well, we have engineers from both the port authority of New York and New Jersey, and New Jersey Transit on the scene now evaluating the structural integrity of the station. And we are not going to permit any trains or any commuters into the station until we have assurance that the structural integrity is intact. But obviously, you have seen the pictures, and given the impact, we have to go through those inspections. That's why I'm skeptical that we will see that station opened again today. What we are attempting to discover is how we might enhance ferry service and other service for people who need to get to Hoboken to avoid the train if that's possible as well. There are concerns about the structural integrity of the engineers from both the port authority of New York and New Jersey and New Jersey Transit on site right now evaluating that, and they will be giving me a report back as soon as they reach some conclusion.
BOLDUAN: Governor, are you heading there? You going to be heading to Hoboken?
CHRISTIE: Yes. I'm heading to Hoboken and will be there later in the afternoon.
BERMAN: Governor, you told us this is being investigated by several local, state and now federal agencies. At this early stage, is there anything to indicate that this was anything other than an accident?
CHRISTIE: You know, nothing at this point but again, remember, we are at the very earliest stages of this. It would be inappropriate for us to draw any conclusions at this time. We don't have any indications of anything other than accident but we are not going to preclude any possibility because it would be irresponsible to do so. In my old job as United States attorney, before I became governor, I often cautioned our people, don't jump to conclusions, let the facts lead you to the conclusions. That's what we're doing in working with the Federal Railway Administration, NTSB, and being led by the New Jersey State attorney general. They are coordinating together, have already been in conversations, so there's no overlap and no confusion, and people can be assured that we will get to a conclusion on what was the cause of this accident as quickly as possible.
[11:35:36] BOLDUAN: Governor, what is your biggest question this morning as all the facts are still coming in? As you mentioned, you don't want to jump to conclusions but what is your biggest question right now as you look at this?
CHRISTIE: How did this happen? We have hundreds of thousands of people that use New Jersey Transit trains every day, inside New Jersey and back and forth between New Jersey and New York City. They have an exemplary safety record so first thing you want to know is, how did this happen so you can give an explanation to the people who were affected but just as importantly, try to make sure this never happens again. That's the first thing that jumps to mind when you're the governor, to get the answer to that question so you can effect policy to make sure as best you can that this kind of thing doesn't happen again. Let's see what the cause was. That's the first question.
BERMAN: Governor Chris Christie, we will let you get back to your job right now. We know you have a lot to do today.
Thank you so much for joining us.
BOLDUAN: Thank you, Governor. BERMAN: Again, we are thinking about you and your state and the city of Hoboken as they deal with this.
CHRISTIE: John and Kate, thank you very much for the time. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers for our people.
BOLDUAN: Thank you so much, Governor.
BERMAN: Just to recap some information we just got from the governor. They have one confirmed fatality so far. Other stations are reporting different things. We confirmed one fatality so far. Everyone has been removed from that train and also the station. So there is no more ongoing rescue operation.
BOLDUAN: The governor says he will be heading there this afternoon and asked if this looks like anything more than an accident, he said at this point, no, but very, very careful to point out and important to point out, he said, at the beginning of this, he's not going to jump to any conclusions, no one else should as they really are still the facts of what happened and then they can start to get to the why.
BERMAN: Joining us right now, Mary Schiavo, former inspector general for the Department of Transportation.
Mary, thank you for being with us.
The governor says at this point no reason to believe this was anything other than an accident. Obviously they are still investigating. Several witnesses have been telling us that this train was going faster than it should have been as it pulled into the station. That's when it jumped the bumper and went into the air. What could cause, what could lead to a train going into a station like this faster than it should?
MARY SCHIAVO, CNN ANALYST & FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: Well, really, there are only two things. I mean, it was clearly on the tracks as it headed into the station because if it had really jumped the tracks it wouldn't have been able to move with such force. You either have a situation where there was a problem with the train, where the train could not be slowed down, or a problem with the person controlling the train and I think the eyewitnesses have now said that they saw the engineer slumped over the controls. He had not died but he wasn't responsive at that time so that gives us a clue that at least because this was a pusher train, remember, the engineer and the locomotive was at the back of the train so he would have been away from the immediate collision with the bumper and went into the station, so that gives us a very big clue. So ordinarily, when you have a situation like this, it's problems with the engineer and inputting the proper controls, failing to slow the train, or problem with the train which is why they will have to investigate so very carefully to see that there wasn't a problem raking system on the train.
Mary, stand by with us quickly. Let's bring in Ben Fairclough, a witness to this crash.
Ben, bring us up to speed. Where were you?
BEN FAIRCLOUGH, WITNESS (voice-over): Yeah, hi. I was on the train that had arrived shortly after the accident. I was at the same station. I was kind of walking through the terminal and trying to connect to the PATH train, which goes under the Hudson River to New York City, when I stopped and sort of saw the accident had just transpired. It was a ton of debris in the area. There was water coming from the roof. It was eerie silence. People were just sort of trying transpired. There were people climbing out of the windows, trying to get themselves to safety. I spoke to a number of people who were on the train who were injured and some of them train, it just wouldn't stop, it just wouldn't stop. It was sort of the recurring theme from the folks who were there.
[11:40:05] BERMAN: How fast was it going as it pulled into the station? Any sense?
FAIRCLOUGH: I can't tell you that. I wasn't there when it actually transpired. It was only a matter of seconds or a minute after it transpired when I arrived so I can't say that I saw the accident itself but the immediate aftermath was unfortunately fairly devastating. The roof appeared to have collapsed and immediately you were concerned about the safety of the folks who were on the train or in the area.
Ben, thank you so much for getting on the phone with us. We really appreciate it. Thank you, thank you.
Let's go right now live to Deborah Feyerick, standing by in Hoboken where is standing by at the crash site.
Deborah, you're working your sources. What more are you learning? What are you seeing there?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now we do have an eyewitness to what happened. His name is William Blaine. He is an engineer.
You work for Norfolk Southern. What did you see? Where exactly were you when this happened?
WILLIAM BLAINE, ENGINEER, NORFOLK SOUTHERN: When it happened, actually 30 seconds after I walked away from the area, I was told it was track five the train came in on. I had just walked away from track five 30 seconds to get some coffee and texted my co-worker, which was a conductor, and when I walked in Dunkin' Donuts, there was a big line. As soon as I stopped and turned and looked at the men, I heard a kaboom. The whole place shook. It was like a boom like an earthquake. I started hearing water and I panicked a little bit and in seconds I just ran out and looked to the right and I saw, I heard everybody running away from the left side. When I looked to the right I just saw bodies on the ground. Some of them was ting to get up there was a gentleman I saw with a blue suit on, had a big gush on the back of his head bleeding crazy and he tried to get up and he fell back down and I went to run to help him up, someone else beat me to him. They picked him up and tried to walk him away and there was another body trying to get up, they were being helped. So I ran immediately, when I realized the train, it was a train I the wall, ran over to try to help some people get off the train. There were a lot of other employees there helping out so I backed up and when I backed up, I looked down and I saw a deceased person right there, which disturbed me. A young lady. She was actually gone.
FEYERICK: How could you tell? What were the nature of her injuries?
BLAINE: The side of her head was just messed up. You saw blood all underneath her face. She wasn't breathing. She was gone.
FEYERICK: Where were these people? Were they close to the front of the train?
BLAINE: A lot of people that tried to get out of the train was the first car on the front of the train. Lot of people was helping them get out. I just kind of stopped people from coming around the scene because the whole, like infrastructure was about to fall in. Looks like cracks, it was crazy over the place. I was telling people stay out of the way but there was a lot of injured we were assisting into one of the big rooms.
FEYERICK: So you are saying a lot of the injured that you saw were actually waiting on the side to board the train?
BLAINE: Yes. Yes. Basically the injured I saw. One inside train, except the engineer, 15, 20 minutes later, one of the officers said did anyone see the engineer and I was standing there, I looked around, we started looking around, somebody said no. I think one of the Jersey Transit employees, might have been the manager, walked over up in the cab and I walked over with him but I was a little further away. I looked up, you could see his shirt. He was slouched over in the cabin of the engine.
FEYERICK: What are the safety mechanisms, why didn't this train stop? We heard it was going not necessarily at a very high rate of speed butt was certainly unable to stop. What safety mechanisms would normally kick in?
BLAINE: Safety measures, the two best safety measures you have with a train as an engineer, in my experience, is the alerter and you have the engineer. The alerter comes on, it will come on for 60 seconds if you don't knock it off, the train's going to come to a stop. It brings it to a full stop. The difference about the alerter I do like, it's a safety measure, meaning it doesn't throw the passengers forward. It just brings the train to a stop.
FEYERICK: So what would -- why wouldn't it have stopped? Assuming the engineer was unresponsive, why wouldn't it automatically kick in?
BLAINE: Unless -- only thing I can engineer, just say I passed out for a second and say I'm 50 feet or 60 feet towards the bumper, what happens is that if I pass out, become unconscious or whatever or lose my mind, what happens, that alerter kicks in if I don't touch any throttle, anything, that alerter kicks in after like 60 seconds and I think it will go for 60 seconds. Say almost two minutes. So it will bring that train to a stop but just say if I'm, maybe if I'm 30 feet from the bumper, would it stop the train in time, no.
[11:45:03] FEYERICK: So he may have been -- it may have been too close to automatically kick in?
BLAINE: Absolutely right.
FEYERICK: Tell me about the train. It came up over that bumper. Is that bumper meant to slow it down or it jumped, where was the position of the train?
BLAINE: The bumper is met to really just stop the train so it won't do any damage. But looking at the train and that bumper, that speed, that bumper was no match for that speed, because the train wasn't on the tracks anymore. It jumped up. It had to jump up at least about five feet. It was on the platform. So that's -- that means it was -- speed had to have been maybe 30 miles per hour.
FEYERICK: So your assessment just looking at what you saw, how would you describe this to people just looking at what you witnessed?
BLAINE: Well, I have to say once again, I thank god I'm alive. If I wasn't away, in 30 seconds I probably could have been hurt myself. I was standing right in front of the track. Just getting off the train. All I can say is that it's just a tragedy. I wouldn't want my worst enemy to go through something like that.
FEYERICK: It was chaos?
BLAINE: It was chaos.
FEYERICK: William Blaine, thank you very much.
FEYERICK: We appreciate your sharing your thoughts with us.
John and Kate, you can hear just a scene of utter devastation and chaos. Certainly people laying on the tracks bleeding, and right now, a number of people are at local hospitals being treated for those injuries.
Deborah, thank you so much.
Thank you to Mr. Blaine, as well.
We are awaiting a news conference that could be starting very, very soon. We are waiting on that. We are also getting more witnesses calling in to us to tell us their
story of what they saw when that train did not stop, that crash occurred, the roof of Hoboken terminal collapsed.
We'll be right back.
[11:5041:] BOLDUAN: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world as we continue to follow breaking news out of Hoboken, New Jersey. At 8:45 this morning a train crashed into the Hoboken terminal. 15,000 people board that, board trains through that station every day. You can see the destruction on the videos we're getting in. The latest is one person confirmed dead at this point.
The governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, was just on the phone with us saying that everyone who was on the train, there were reports of people trapped, they have been removed from the train at this point.
BERMAN: At this point, the governor tells us there was no reason to think this was anything other than an accident though obviously the very early stages of the investigation involved local, state and federal authorities right now.
Joining us right now is a witness to this accident, John Minko, whose voice many of you will know from being on the radio at WFAN. He was on a train just before and was in the station.
John, thanks so much for being with us. Glad you're OK.
What did you see?
JOHN MINKO, WITNESS & RADIO HOST, WFAN (voice-over): Very simply and correct, I was on a previous train, got off that train, just took a walk by the river for a few minutes before boarding the path train to get from Jersey to Manhattan. As I re-entered the terminal, I'm standing on top of the stairway that leads down to a subway system that goes into Manhattan. There was some screaming and people just looking over to the right where the trains come in. And I'm basically adjacent to track two and on track number five I looked over to see what everybody else was looking at and I saw a train that, quote/unquote, "simply would not stop." And for whatever the reasons turn out to be, that train did not stop and it -- I saw the -- it sounded like an explosion but wasn't. A loud noise as it went into the support system up on top of the concourse and quite possibly into the reception area. The roof, there's a roof that is on top of the train tracks. And I think that that -- some of pillar or two had hit the ceiling of the train. But at that point in time, there were about 100 people that were either coming up those stairs and we all pushed and shoved in a good way as we tried to help each other, as a mass group, to escape the area.
BOLDUAN: John, as we were speaking to a member of Congress earlier who said the train when it kind of jumped the track or went airborne over the barricade it actually crashed into an empty store that was there. He says that's one bit of good time. You just -- you along with a lot of witnesses described this kind of sound of an explosion. What did you see right afterward?
MINKO: Yeah, I saw -- it became very dark, extremely dark. And it became silent for not a long period of time. And I mean a second or two. And then all of a sudden you hear the screaming and, you know, it -- disbelief. I think when I saw the train slam, I could not believe what, you know, I'd seen there. And with the group that I was with, or in, I suppose that's the proper term, at the top of the stairway and the people that were literally running from down below, we were able to get outside before -- and I would say this, the responders were there extremely quick.
BERMAN: All right, John Minko, we are glad you're OK.
Thanks so much for calling in and telling us what you saw there at that station.
Again, heard what sounded like an explosion, probably the crash of this train going into this bumper, perhaps hitting the ceiling. There was a roof collapse. And then as John Minko described, you know, an awful lot of chaos in there, although people did seem to move out orderly. One person confirmed dead. 75 injuries at this point. The governor, Chris Christie, just told us shortly ago everyone, everyone, has now been removed from that train.
BOLDUAN: All right, let's go now to David Soucie, CNN safety analyst, who's investigated many crashes.
David, thank you for joining us.
When you hear the facts as the witnesses have been describing the scene, what do you see, as a safety investigator, what are you first looking at?
[11:55:22] DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST (voice-over): Well, what we're first looking at is the automated systems and if they failed or not. There's several automated systems to slow the train as it approaches into the terminal area there. There's two that I really -- one of them is the automated speed reduction. So automated speed reduction is you're on the track and you're going faster than you should be. The Philadelphia accident we talked about in 2015 when there's no automated speed reduction and it went in too fast and caused it to crash. One of the most serious accidents we've had in rail history. This concerns me because not only is there a speed reduction but there's also a braking system as it enters the terminal that should take over if the train's coming too quickly into the terminal. So those two things -- in listening to what -- the description of the witness there, it's just miraculous there weren't more reported fatalities and injuries and the fact everyone was taken off of that train at this point is just miraculous.
BERMAN: David, we got about 20 seconds left. We have been told that the engineer was removed from the train. One report had him as unconscious. The governor told us he's been taken to the hospital. Obviously, he's going to be a crucial witness here.
SOUCIE: Yeah, absolutely. He's undergoing a lot of investigation right now. They're going to do blood alcohol tests. They'll do everything that they would do in any kind of accident, to see if he was OK, if he was incapacitated. He doesn't have the right -- the ability to override the safety systems. So there's more concern even than just whether he made a mistake. There's something wrong with the exact safety systems themselves -- John?
BOLDUAN: It's very clear something went very, very wrong. We're going to continue to follow this.
New information coming in. Waiting for a press conference to begin soon.
Our special coverage continues in a moment.