Passengers tell of sudden, surreal crash at New Jersey train station
Man: "It just didn't slow down. It ran right through the backstop"
New Jersey Transit train #1614 never slowed before it barreled into Hoboken Terminal on Thursday morning.
Then came a sudden crash, throwing passengers to the floor as the train plowed through the station and hopped off the tracks.
The crash left a woman dead and at least 110 injured amid scenes of carnage: Blood everywhere, screams, unresponsive passengers lying on the floor.
Stricken passengers climbed over an obstacle course of debris and through mangled windows to flee the crippled train. Stunned witnesses at the station ran to help.
Here are some of their accounts:
’It felt like an eternity’
Bhagyesh Shah squeezed into the crowded first car at the stop before Hoboken. As it neared the end of the line, he noticed it wasn’t slowing down.
Before he could give it a second thought, the cabin went dark and he was on the floor.
As the train flew through the barrier Shah felt the train plowing forward as if through quicksand.
“I was hoping the train would stop now, but it just didn’t stop. It kept going and going and going. At the end of it, it felt like eternity.”
When the train finally came to a stop he looked up. Debris had fallen through the roof.
The doors would not open, so he climbed out the emergency window. Once off the train, he saw seven or eight people freeing a passenger trapped under the debris. A man with a head injury was trapped in the first car, he said.
’Everyone toppled over like bowling pins’
In the third car, Leon Offengenden didn’t notice the train was going faster than it should have as it pulled into the station.
“All of sudden, it just crashed,” he said. “Everyone toppled over like bowling pins.”
People screamed as the lights went out.
“When we got out I could see that the roof of the station collapsed and there were wires and water running. A man walked past me, holding his arm. I saw some blood. I don’t want to describe too much. I think I’m still in shock a little bit,” he said.
The conductor told everyone who was hurt to stay on the train. Offengenden decided to leave.
Once he was off the train, he saw crew members looking into the train’s mangled windows and trying to calm agitated victims. A woman came out of the second car with blood on her face.
A ‘bomb-like explosion’
To those watching from the platform, it was clear something was wrong.
“It was considerably faster than it should have normally been at the terminal,” said New Jersey Transit employee William Blaine. “It usually comes to a complete stop about 10 to 20 feet before the bumper block.”
Larson watched incredulously as the train went through the bumper block and flew through the air.
“I heard a bomb-like explosion,” he said. “As soon as I heard it, it was right there in front of me.”
Blaine thought it was bomb as he heard the explosion while sitting in Dunkin’ Donuts. He thought it was terror attack. His shock turned to fright as he went out to investigate.
“I saw people laying down and debris and metal all over the place. Then I looked clearer, and I saw the train in the wall.”
He believes he stepped over a woman’s body while trying to help people.
“That bothers me.”
An ‘eerie silence’
Ben Fairclough’s train pulled in right after the accident and he came upon a surreal scene.
“It was eerie silence, people just trying to figure out what had just transpired,” he said.
The roof had collapsed onto the train. On the platform, bleeding, dazed people walked among debris as people tried to climb out of the train windows.
“You were concerned about the safety of the folks who were on the train or in the area.”
CNN’s Kait Richmond and Ray Sanchez contributed to this report