NEW YORK (AP) — A train with about 1,200 passengers became stuck in a tunnel between New York and New Jersey for nearly three hours on Friday, the latest in a series of recent rail problems plaguing the metropolitan area.
The New Jersey Transit train became disabled in the Hudson River tunnel late Friday afternoon, when Amtrak was experiencing overhead power problems. A New Jersey Transit spokeswoman said the train finally reached New York’s Penn Station in the early evening.
The already chaotic scene escalated to pandemonium when a passenger from the disabled train became belligerent and sparked a stampede among passengers leaving the overcrowded station.
New York police said that the stampede started when an Amtrak police officer used a Taser on the disruptive person and that reports that gunshots were fired at the station were false. People screamed and ran, leaving the station strewn with abandoned bags. The nearby Macy’s department store was briefly locked down.
Amtrak did not immediately respond to a phone call about the incident.
The loss of power caused delays of an hour or more on Amtrak and New Jersey Transit. It happened three weeks after the derailment of an Amtrak train at Penn Station and a week after a New Jersey Transit derailment shut down eight of 21 tracks there and disrupted travel in the region for days. No injuries were reported in any of the incidents.
One passenger from Friday’s train, Mia Sanati, described a scene of confusion.
Sanati said she and her husband were headed for the New York International Auto Show when they boarded the train in Secaucus, New Jersey, at Secaucus Junction, the last New York-bound stop before Penn Station.
She said shortly after the train entered the tunnel to go under the Hudson River, they felt a bump on the side of the train and saw sparks.
“About 30 seconds later, the train just came to a complete stop,” Sanati said.
The power went out except for emergency lights, and so did the air conditioning, said Sanati, who made video of the darkened car.
“It got really hot really fast, with that many people crammed together,” she said.
As riders waited and plans changed — they were told that the train would be towed, then that it would be evacuated — some tried to make light of the situation or scooted over in their seats to make room for people who were standing. But others were shaking, pacing, saying they had to get out or mulling about walking through the tunnel, Sanati said.
After the electricity came back on and the train started moving, there were cheers, said Sanati, who lives in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, and just finished a doctoral program in mass communications.
Rush hour passengers trying to leave New York faced mounting delays.
Adam Rosen, a chemical engineer going to Hamilton, New Jersey, said, “They keep extending the delays from 45 minutes to 90 minutes and now indefinitely. This is the worst.”
New Jersey Transit executive director Steven Santoro said in a statement to affected riders, “we deeply apologize for your experience, and I would like to hear from you.”
NJ Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder said the railroad was working with Amtrak to determine the cause of the problem. Amtrak issued a statement about the delays but didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking further comment.