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Chain saws, air bags used in Metro-North rescue effort

Emergency workers on the scene of the derailed

Emergency workers on the scene of the derailed Metro-North train in the Bronx this morning (Dec. 1, 2013) Credit: Lou Minutoli

Emergency responders, including NYPD, FDNY and MTA rescuers, climbed over rails and maneuvered rocky terrain with heavy equipment to reach trapped and injured passengers in a derailed Metro-North train in the Bronx and then carry them out on stretchers, officials said.

Rescuers on Sunday were seen carrying chain saws, and a ladder had been propped against one train car that had flipped on its side. They inflated an air bag to lift one train car off a passenger pinned underneath and used saws to cut away metal to reach victims, Edward Kilduff, FDNY chief of department, said.

Other officials said rescuers broke windows to get to passengers.

Four people were killed and 63 injured, including the train's conductor, who was in stable condition Sunday, officials said.

The wreckage of the train lay twisted, the front cars some distance from the curve in the track along the water where the Hudson River meets the Harlem River. The front car was dangerously close to the water.

"The train traveled a good distance. The cars bounced around pretty good," Kilduff said, adding that most of the injured suffered blunt trauma.

"We had evidence of a couple of people under a couple of cars, so we actually used air bags to lift the car -- the air bags can lift tremendous weight -- we used the air bag to lift the car off one, if not two people who were trapped," he said.

Saws were used within the cars to cut away metal and get people out without pulling or twisting them unnecessarily, Kilduff said.

The locomotive and all seven train cars were derailed, several lying on their sides. Shoring them up to stabilize the cars before going in to retrieve passengers was a challenge, Kilduff said.

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said rescue boats and helicopters were on hand to search the river. Rescue divers had gone into the water to search for a passenger initially believed to have been thrown, but it was determined that nobody was in the water, Kelly said.

NTSB board member Earl Weener, who is leading the investigation, said at a news conference that cranes were to be brought in to right the locomotive to stop diesel spills and to right the train cars, with the possibility of finding more people trapped underneath.

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