This story was reported by Alfonso A. Castillo, Candice Ferrette and Nicholas Spangler. It was written by Ferrette.
Twenty nine people were injured Saturday night when an eastbound Long Island Rail Road passenger train struck a work train sitting on the tracks and derailed just east of the New Hyde Park station, officials said.
About 600 people were aboard the 12-car train when it derailed at 9:10 p.m., officials said.
The collision caused the work train to catch fire and LIRR officials announced suspended service in both directions between Jamaica and Hicksville just after 9 p.m., minutes after the incident occurred.
Service was suspended on Ronkonkoma, Oyster Bay and Port Jefferson branches as of midnight.
MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast, who arrived to the scene late in the evening, said he was unable to comment on the injuries and the incident was still under investigation.
The speed of the train was unknown.
The work train was on a track that was out of service and, although it was not a head-on collision, the equipment was obstructing the way of the passenger train near a switch.
“It appears that the contact was made with the first car,” said Prendergast who arrived on the scene last night. “Kind of like a sideswiping.”
The work train, a yellow, one-car train, was performing scheduled maintenance on a second track on that train line Saturday. The two trains made contact at a switch near the New Hyde Park Station.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office released a statement Saturday saying MTA and LIRR staff “will work around the clock to determine the cause of this derailment and restore service as quickly as possible. . . . We will continue to provide the public with additional information as it becomes available.”
The Federal Railroad Administration said it has investigators en route to the derailment.
The first three cars and part of a fourth car could be seen off the tracks Saturday night amid a chaotic scene of first responders and hundreds of passengers who disembarked in the rain.
Jarred Gleisman-Ackerman, who was in the front car of the train, said the derailment felt like a “roller coaster ride” as the train rumbled along the track ties, jostling from side to side for about 15 seconds before coming to a stop, tilted.
“We all had to move to one side because we were afraid it was going to tip,” he said. “As soon as we felt it shaking, we were like, ‘Everybody please move to the other side and sit down.’”
Gleisman-Ackerman and another passenger in the front car said they saw a large hole in the train floor by one of the seats near the front of the train. A passenger seated there lied on the floor, hurt. A “frantic” child seated in the first car cried hysterically, Gleisman-Ackerman said.
“There were some people panicking and freaking out. We were trying to calm them down,” he added.
The train doors in the front car were damaged and broke open. Many passengers evacuated through those doors, against the orders of the train crew, who urged them to exit at the rear of the car.
Yellow paint from the contact with the work car was visible along the outside of the second passenger train car.
The third passenger train car appeared to have the most exterior damage, including a gash along its metal side — as if it had been sliced with a can opener.
Craig Heller of East Meadow was in the second train car from the front which “all of a sudden just started shaking,” he said.
“A chair in the car I was in went flying and the door crashed open. Fortunately, then it stopped and we were tilted in our car, but everybody in our car was fine,” Heller said. “It felt like we could actually completely tip over, obviously, while it was happening. That was a fear.”
At least one person was seen removed on a stretcher and at least ten others were taken by first responders for triage.
“A significant evacuation, it was a difficult evacuation,” said Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano in a news conference at the scene late last night. “It was a tremendous response and that’s why I think the injuries were really minimized. You could’ve seen more serious injuries just evacuating the train.”
One passenger said he felt the impact in the fourth car and had to climb down a ladder to evacuate.
Firefighters swarmed the scene at Old Broadway and Railroad Avenue.
Uninjured passengers spilled onto the north side of Railroad Avenue. Many calling loved ones to tell them they were OK.
Several passengers were in costume, returning from a Comic Con, an event at the Jacob Javits Center for enthusiasts of comic books and other pop culture animation.
Kristine Gray of Huntington said everyone in her car who was standing fell backward.
“It’s just terrifying,” she said.