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NTSB begins investigation into NYC train collision that caused subway derailment

NTSB begins investigation into subway derailment
NTSB begins investigation into subway derailment 02:37

NEW YORK -- The National Transportation Safety Board is on the scene of Thursday's Upper West Side subway derailment to figure out what went wrong in the tunnel near 96th Street.

Investigators say vandals pulled the emergency brakes in an empty train car, which led to a domino effect.

The NTSB said it's not ruling anything out, but it appears train operators were instructed by the control center to cut the brakes on the out-of-service train and push it to the rail yard just before it collided with a 1 train carrying passengers. 

"It is too early to determine probable cause, whether it's human error, whether it's mechanical," said NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy. "It's easy to blame humans. Human error is a symptom of a system that needs to be redesigned."

The MTA said it ruled out equipment failure as the cause of the collision, while the workers union claims conductors were not at fault. The agency believes the passenger train had a green light, but the out-of-service train was proceeding for some reason. 

"The signal system needs to interact with the train itself. The train that moved, it was disabled and so when you have the mechanical portion of the train that is having challenges, that's why you have a secondary backup, which in this case were the operators," said New York City Transit President Richard Davey. 

Watch Ali Bauman's report

NTSB begins investigation into New York City train collision 03:02

Friday, the Transit Workers Union defended the conductors. 

"The movements of the out-of-service train on the tracks were controlled by management," said TWU Local 100 President Richard Davis. "Management gives the directions or orders how to move the train." 

The trains' lack of inward or outward facing cameras hinders the investigation, the NTSB added. 

The derailment happened Thursday afternoon when a 1 train carrying about 300 passengers collided at a low speed with an empty train car that was out of service after being vandalized. 

"The front five cars, or the leading five cars, have no brakes, have no power. It's essentially rolling stock," said Homendy. "They past through some signals, approach signals and a home signal, and in that configuration, in that push mode, that train struck a northbound train at a crossover." 

Hundreds of MTA crews have been working underground to delicately remove the damaged train cars from the tunnel so they can restore regular service. 

"There is a lot of damage to the trains. There are, there's a lot of damage along the track," Homendy said.

"The train is currently sitting on ties, railroad ties, really wooden blocks, and the last piece of this will be to bring in a new truck, put the car on top of it and then roll it out," said Davey. 

"Our mission overall is to always understand how something happened, why something happened, an event happened, to prevent it from happening again," Homendy said.

NTSB news conference on NYC subway crash, derailment 18:29

The MTA had restored limited service on the 1 and 3 lines for Friday evening's rush, but 2 trains continued running on the 5 line. 

In the meantime, dozens of shuttle buses have been brought in to help reroute commuters. 

"I'll have to figure out, like with the buses, how to get around," said Christiana Blain. 

"Going to work is one thing, but coming back is something else. Trying to get back home is a whole adventure," Harlem resident Jeffrey Banks said.

"That's New York ... We gotta take the bitter with the sweet," Spanish Harlem resident Patrece Mitchell said.

The owner of Field Trip in Harlem had to step in to help on Friday after a number of his employees were stuck trying to get to work.

"Some were an hour, even two hours late. That's why I'm here today at the Harlem location because I was a cashier," JJ Johnson said.

"I didn't even see a shuttle bus, so I had to cross over blocks to get up here. It was crazy," Field Trip employee Thomas Gregory said.

About 25 people suffered minor injuries in the subway collision, including some MTA employees. 

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