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NTSB: Fractured Rail Joint Among Possible Causes Of Metro-North Crash

NTSB members Earl Weener, right, and Michael Hiller during a press conference Saturday about Friday's Metro-North train crash on the Bridgeport/Fairfield border. Photo Credit: Alfred Branch
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal speaks to reporters Saturday following a press conference on Friday's Metro-North train crash on the Bridgeport/Fairfield border. Photo Credit: Alfred Branch

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – As investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board continue their review of Friday’s Metro-North train crash, they are looking at what role a fractured rail joint may have played in the accident, according to board member Earl Weener.

It is not yet known whether the rail joint broke as a result of the crash, or whether it was already broken before the eastbound train traveled over it. But Weener said Saturday that section of the route will be cut out and analyzed thoroughly.

He was quick to add that he would not speculate on what role the fractured rail joint may or may not have played in the accident.

“We start by assuming it could be anything, and then we rule things out,” Weener said during a news conference in Bridgeport.

One thing that has been ruled out, he said, was any foul play as a possible cause of the train crash that injured 60 people.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation made a preliminary assessment of the crash and “decided no foul play” was involved, said Weener.

Several teams from the NTSB are performing different aspects of the investigation, he said, including a Track Team, Mechanical Team, Signals Team, Operations Team and Human Performance Team, among others.

The Track Team, which has made a site assessment and track measurements, found the fractured rail joint. Part of what the team is studying is whether there was “discontinuity in the rail” that would have made an impression in one or more wheels at the time of the crash, according to Weener.

“Although we’ve made some progress, we are still early in the investigation phase,” he said.

Three people remained in critical condition, and a total of eight were still hospitalized at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport and Bridgeport Hospital. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who also attended Saturday’s NTSB news conference, said he had visited six of them.

Many of those hurt in the crash suffered back injuries, Blumenthal said, and while he would not discuss the specifics of their conditions, he said they all appeared to be in good spirits.

One of the injured is a Metro-North conductor named Helen – Blumenthal declined to reveal her last name – who suffered a back injury but still was able to help carry more than one survivor out of the wrecked train.

“I said to her, ‘Wasn’t that hard for you?’ and she said, ‘That’s my job,’” said Blumenthal, adding that Helen and many of the other passengers “never saw [the crash] coming.”

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