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Investigators Seek To Determine What Led To Queens Subway Train Derailment

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Nearly seven hours after an F Train derailed in Woodside, Queens, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials were still working to determine what went wrong.

As CBS 2's Jessica Schneider reported, the MTA was planning Friday afternoon to conduct a full investigation - including an inspection of the subway line's signals and the track itself.

The inbound F Train derailed on the express tracks around 10:40 a.m., in a tunnel about 1,200 feet south from the 65th Street station in Woodside.

PHOTOS: Queens Subway Derailment

In all, officials said there were about 1,000 passengers on the train. Nineteen people were hurt, including four who were potentially seriously injured, authorities said. They were all taken to area hospitals.

The derailment left the tracks mangled, and splinters of wood scattered about the tunnel. MTA photos showed a close-up view of a rail that was being examined closely after six of the cars on the train careened off the track.

"The first car of the train made it through without derailing," said NYPD Chief of Patrol James Hall. "The following cars, then -- about six cars -- derailed, and then the final car stayed on the track."

One passenger who called CBS 2 said it felt like the train hit a giant pothole before grinding to a halt and derailing.

Officials late Friday afternoon were scrambling to figure out what went wrong.

"There's track damage and damage to the car equipment. So like I said, after the rush hour, what we're going to do is focus on getting those cars re-railed, inspecting the track, rebuilding the track, and making sure -- even before we restore service -- that there's no structure damage," said MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Prendergast. "But there doesn't appear to be any structural damage at this time."

Officials said the tracks where the derailment happened were placed in the mid-1980s – not very old by engineering standards.

Just one year ago, a No. 1 train derailed near 125th Street in Harlem. None of the 424 people on board were injured, and all were helped onto a rescue train that was taken to another station.

The last serious derailment was in August 1991 -- when the No. 4 train came off the tracks at Union Square -- killing five people and injuring more than 200. The motorman was drunk at the time, and was convicted of manslaughter.

But former Chicago Transit Authority executive director Robert "Buzz" Paaswell said overall, the system is safe.

"Train derailments in stations... underground, are very, very rare. So it could be something happened to the track, something could have happened with the wheel -- a wheel might have wobbled or come loose -- or there could've been something on the track which caused something to hop over," Paaswell said.

Paaswell added that MTA workers are constantly on alert for any problems underground on the subway lines.

"They have inspectors go on the track – they look at the tracks and signals all the time. These people you hear about the dangerous jobs, walking tracks and looking at third rail – all the time," he said. "They do that for safety. They want to make sure there's nothing on the tracks."

MTA chairman Prendergast also stressed that the agency runs 8,000 trains a day, and also said the system is very safe.

In the wake of the accident, the work continued to find out what went wrong so no one else would be in danger on the line.

Local service on the F Train, as well as the E Train, resumed in both directions for the evening rush Friday. But the E, F, R, and M trains shut down again along Queens Boulevard at 10 p.m. Friday, and will remain closed until 7 a.m. Saturday as crews re-rail and remove the train, the MTA said.

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