F train subway derailment in Queens leaves four with 'potentially serious' injuries, officials say
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A subway train packed with about 1,000 passengers derailed in a Queens tunnel Friday morning, injuring 19 people and trapping other badly shaken riders for up to two hours.
Smoke and dust filled the air as first responders safely removed all of the Manhattan-bound F train's passengers through emergency exits, officials said.
Passengers described moments of confusion and panic as the train shook and tilted before jerking to a halt.
"The train was going fast, and then it stopped and shook several times before it came to a stop," said Woodside resident Teresa Cevallos. " . . . I grabbed onto the man next to me, and all I can think about is, 'Oh my God, I am still alive.' "
Irfan Khundmiri, 40, of Flushing, on his way to his job at a Manhattan jewelry store, was in the second car -- the car that derailed first.
"The train was going pretty fast. I felt like it had hit something and then it started to slow down," he said. "Everybody started to panic. I shouted to keep calm."
He said he was standing and the woman next to him grabbed on and wouldn't let go.
The cause of the accident wasn't clear.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said the train's speed will be part of its investigation. Officials could not immediately say how fast the train was moving at the time of the derailment.
Four riders with "potentially serious" injuries were taken to a hospital complaining of chest pains and other problems, MTA officials said. Fifteen others were treated at the scene for minor injuries.
The 10:15 a.m. derailment occurred on express tracks about 1,200 feet west of the 65th Street station in Woodside.
The accident halted all service in the area, which the MTA calls one of its busiest corridors, affecting the F, E, M and R lines.
Local service was restored on the outer tracks shortly before 5 p.m., but evening rush-hour service was limited as the two inner, express tracks remained out of service, the MTA said.
MTA officials said the derailed train was to be moved sometime Friday night, after the evening commute. There was no timetable for repairs to the broken section of track.
There is no switch in the area, and the tracks there are 20 to 30 years old, said MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast, who went to the scene.
The train operator, whose name was not released, will be tested for drugs and alcohol, which is routine, MTA spokeswoman Amanda Kwan said.
Deputy Assistant Fire Chief James Leonard said the middle six cars of the eight-car train derailed. All the cars remained upright, and there was no fire, he said.
He said power was immediately shut off and firefighters had limited visibility as they worked in a swirl of smoke and dust.
"Our objective was to get firefighters into the tunnel . . . to keep people calm and make sure they knew they were safe," Leonard said.
Afterward, Khundmiri of Flushing, was philosophical.
"Accidents happen and life can't always be smooth," he said, adding: "I'll be back on the train tomorrow."
The last major derailment was in August 1991, when a No. 4 train came off the tracks at Union Square. Five people were killed and more than 200 were injured.
With John Valenti,
Maria Alvarez and AP