Some 34 straphangers were injured when a section of a subway train flew off the tracks in Harlem Tuesday — filling several cars with smoke, forcing hundreds to be evacuated and crippling service citywide.
Four cars in the Brooklyn-bound A train dislodged from the tracks outside the 125th St. station near St. Nicholas Ave. about 9:45 a.m. after its emergency brakes were triggered, sources and officials said.
Newly minted MTA chairman Joe Lhota said at a hastily convened press conference that investigators were working to determine what caused the derailment.
“This does not look like a failure on the part of the equipment,” Lhota said.
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“The brakes went into emergency and we need to determine why,” added Lhota on just his fifth day on the job.
Some 17 riders were rushed to local hospitals with injuries that weren’t considered life-threatening. The other half were being evaluated at the scene, FDNY Commissioner Dan Nigro said.
An estimated 500 riders ended up on the tracks following the derailment. “It’s a very dangerous thing,” Nigro said.
The incident crippled the subway system during the morning rush hour — knocking out service on the B and C lines and large swaths of the A and D lines.
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Lhota and Ronnie Hakim, the MTA’s acting executive director, said there was no telling when subway service would be fully restored.
Lhota said workers still had to remove the derailed train to determine the extent of the damage to the tracks.
“Our goal is to get back and running as quickly as possible,” Lhota said.
Lhota added that the smoke condition was caused by debris on the tracks that went up in flames.
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Rider Kirk James, 42, said the train came to a jarring halt while it was pulling into the 125th St. station.
“People kind of toppled,” said James, an NYU professor.
Several minutes passed with no sign of help. Then the smell of smoke wafted into the car, James said.
“People started panicking,” he added. “Again there’s no announcement. We’re smelling smoke now. We can’t open the doors. No one knows what to do.”
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James eventually made it out onto the platform by walking to the front of the train. Along the way, he saw dazed riders out on the tracks being aided by firefighters.
“People are crying, people are grateful to be alive but no one knows what just happened,” James said. “There was no one there to say anything.”
The MTA reported a loss of power at 125th St. after 9:30 a.m., holding up A, C, B, and D trains.
“@NYCTSubway lights and a/c went out on train and train came to a full stop. What’s going on? Downtown A train about to pull into 125th,” Jenny Loeffler wrote on Twitter.
The MTA’s subway alert feed on Twitter said crews are working on bringing power back but had no estimate for how long it’ll be out.
Still, some took the derailment in stride — and joked about it.
“@mta you are the BEST!!!!” wrote Carrie Courogen. “It was so much fun living out my horror film fantasies. Especially the part when the train was like sideways!!!”
The derailment forced the MTA to stop all A trains between Jay St. and the Inwood-207th St. stop. B train service between Brighton Beach and 145th St. was suspended, according to the MTA’s website.
By 11:30 a.m, there was still no service on the B and C lines.
The A line was out between 59th St. in Midtown and 207th St. in Inwood, and there was no D train service between 42nd St. Bryant Park and 161st St. Yankee Stadium.
“It’s horrible — a total horror,” said Phyllis Akerley of Howard Beach, while riding an A train from Howard Beach to Jay St.
“It should’ve been 40 minutes and instead it’s been an hour and 20 minutes, and we’re still not there yet.”
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