Two Long Island Rail Road work trains collided just behind the headquarters of several Nassau emergency response agencies Tuesday, injuring five LIRR employees and causing major delays on the Ronkonkoma and Port Jefferson rail lines.
The LIRR said late Tuesday afternoon it expects a near-normal evening rush after the accident, which involved a three-car chain reaction.
Shortly after 11 a.m., one of the two equipment trains rear-ended the other on the LIRR's Main Line, just feet away from the Nassau County Public Safety Center on Prospect Avenue in New Cassel, which houses the county fire marshal's office, 911 headquarters and some police offices. The location is about a half-mile west of Hicksville, the busiest LIRR station in Nassau.
Assistant Chief Fire Marshal John Priest said his workers were conducting routine drills at the complex "when they heard a loud crash."
Within seconds, Priest said about two dozen workers -- all of them trained emergency medical technicians -- rushed to the scene.
"We were literally over the fence or through the fence as the trains came to a stop," Priest said.
Nassau Police and the Westbury Fire Department soon arrived to help, and the LIRR was contacted to turn off the electricity powering the third rail.
Priest said the emergency responders aided five workers with minor injuries. Two of them, who Priest believed to be the operators of each train, suffered cuts and head injuries and were taken to a hospital. Both were conscious and talking he said.
"We treated it like a car accident," said Priest, describing the injured workers being helped onto gurneys.
LIRR spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said none of the injuries were "critical but that doesn't mean they are not serious."
The collision caused the LIRR to temporarily suspend service between Mineola and Hicksville. Service was restored around 12:30 p.m. using a single track, but with residual delays.
By midafternoon delays were of up to 60 minutes in both directions. By 3:30 p.m. the work trains had been removed from the tracks.
The two single-unit cars, which do not carry passengers, are used to maintain the condition of the track, Anders said.
Buses were dispatched to Mineola and Hicksville to transport passengers of trains that had been held, and at least two trains originating from Penn Station were canceled, Anders said.
Also, buses were scheduled for the Hicksville and Mineola stations to provide service for the Westbury and Carle Place stations.