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SOTG 462 - New Jersey Train Crash: What can you do during Mass Casualty Incident?

(Photo Source: EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/GETTY IMAGES)

A commuter train in New Jersey crashed into the terminal leaving at least one person dead and more than 100 people injured. What could you do if you were ever involved in a mass casualty event? Would you simply stand around in shock and disbelief or would you be able to do something positive and productive to help other?

Our SWAT Fuel Warrior of the Week wishes to discuss the recent civil unrest and rioting in our nation. What should you do if caught in the middle of a riot? What are your moral and legal responsibilities? Professor Paul will consider this in great detail.

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Topics Covered During This Episode:

  • Motivational Moment for Troops Overseas: Don’t be a mangina. Harden the F Up
  • Warrior of the Week: What to do after you have to defend your life.
    • 1- get yourself and passengers to safety
    • 2- typical emergency services are NOT coming, you need to be able to check yourself and passenger for injuries. Get training prior to this so you understand what to look for to find out who needs attention first.
    • 3- Call 911, give them your name, that they attacked you, and how to get ahold of you.
    • 4- Call your attorney, give him the entire story.
  • More than 100 injured, at least 1 dead after major New Jersey Transit crash at Hoboken station

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From www.nydailynews.com:

Investigators want an NJ Transit engineer to explain what went wrong in the moments before his runaway train killed a bystander on a platform and injured 108 people in a nightmarish crash into the Hoboken station.

Engineer Thomas Gallagher, rescued from his crumpled cab Thursday morning, spoke to authorities within hours of the rush-hour carnage caused when his four-car train hurtled off the tracks, said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

But there was no public explanation for why the train exceeded the 10 mph speed limit while approaching the busy Hoboken Terminal on Track 5 — and Gallagher, 48, was released from a Jersey hospital hours later.

“The train came in at a high rate of speed, and the question is ‘Why is that?’” said Christie. “We won’t know that for some time.”

Federal investigators arrived hours later in Hoboken as the probe continued, with no one providing an answer to the governor’s questions. A cop blocked reporters Thursday night from knocking on the door of Gallagher’s home in Morris Plains, N.J.

Most of the injured were rush-hour commuters aboard the 7:23 a.m. train from Spring Valley, Rockland County, as Train No. 1614 arrived for the last stop on its daily 75-minute trip along the Pascack Valley line.

The doomed woman was standing on a nearby train platform when she was struck and killed by a flying piece of debris. One witness said the train, with four 54-ton passenger cars, actually went airborne.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” said NJ Transit employee Michael Larson.

Authorities said the train was traveling too fast as it arrived eight minutes late — and never decelerated until crashing through a concrete and steel bumper, sending passengers and debris flying.

“It sounded like a bomb went off,” said construction worker Charles Frazier of Roselle Park, N.J., describing the chaotic 8:45 a.m. scene. “The roof collapsed. The steel beams came down…People were trying to climb out the (train) windows.”

A portion of the historic 109-year-old station was reduced to rubble, with a collapsed roof falling amid mangled steel and smashed glass.

Bleeding commuters wandered in a daze as first responders flooded the station, and 75 people were hospitalized with broken bones, oozing cuts, bumps and bruises.

A pregnant woman was lifted to safety by fellow passengers through a window in the train’s front car.

“People were running, obviously screaming,” said witness Tony Spina. “I saw folks bleeding from their heads. I saw folks limping. Folks were on the ground who couldn’t move.”

An NJ Transit spokesman estimated there were about 250 people aboard the morning train that was propelled by a locomotive in the rear.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to Hoboken within hours. Their mission includes recovering data recorders from two locations on the train, each with an outward-facing camera.

It was unclear how long the terminal will remain closed, but metropolitan area commuters will face delays until the transit hub reopens.

NTSB Vice Chairman Bella Dinh-Zarr said a second part of the probe would focus on whether Positive Track Control technology might have prevented the fatal crash.

The speed limit while entering the station is 10 mph, she said. PTC technology automatically slows or stops trains exceeding the limit.

“PTC has been one of our priorities,” she said. “We know that it can prevent accidents. Whether it is involved in this accident, that is definitely one of the things we will look at carefully.”

Federal investigators also intend to speak with Gallagher about the final, fateful part of the daily trip.

Gallagher, who, according to state records, made $110,996 last year, including $39,210.96 in overtime pay, has 29 years on the job. He was operating the train from a control cab in its front passenger car, and eyewitness William Blaine said he saw the engineer slumped over the controls immediately after the crash.

Though Christie said the engineer already spoke with investigators, the NTSB intends to sit down with Gallagher as well in its quest for answers.

Gallagher’s neighbors said the engineer was working his dream job.

“He loves what he does,” said neighbor Tom Jones, 72. “He talks about how much he loves it. He wanted to be a train engineer since he was a boy. He told me he was thinking about being an engineer since he was a child. You could tell every time you spoke with him, it is what he loves to be doing, which is why I find this situation additionally tragic. He just loves it so much. I just can’t imagine what they are all going through.”

Gov. Cuomo and Christie said they understood the desire for an explanation but declined to provide any until the facts were clear.

“Was there a medical condition?” asked Cuomo. “Why did the train come in so fast?…It could be personal to the conductor, an equipment failure.”

But, the governor added, “There’s no real point to speculating what happened.”

Commuter Jamie Weatherhead saw the scene firsthand. She was among those trapped inside when the train finally screeched to a stop on the typically busy concourse outside the station’s waiting room.

There was never any indication that the engineer hit the brakes, she said.

“The lights went out,” she recalled. “We felt more than a jolt. Everyone was thrown to the other side (of the car). The people in the front were very badly injured. I just toppled over. I’m really shaken up.”

Station worker Rick Ciappa described a similar scene in the minutes after the wreck.

“People were bleeding,” Ciappa said. “People buried under the concrete. The whole roof fell down. I saw one woman that was really bad — bloodied.”

The dead woman was identified as Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, 34, of Hoboken. She was a married mother of an 18-month-old girl.

The single fatality seemed almost impossible given the number of people on the train and in the station, and the amount of damage to the station.

Nassimi Toumi, nine months pregnant, was saying goodbye to her husband as the train narrowly missed killing him.

“Just missed him,” said Toumi. “There was a lady with her leg cut open. Blood everywhere.”

An eerie silence soon fell over the crash scene, with passengers helping one another amid the rubble, panic, concrete dust and hanging electrical wires.

The flood of 66 patients at the Jersey City Medical Center forced officials to turn the cafeteria into a triage unit, with 13 people treated for trauma, said spokesman Mark Rabson.

NJ Transit immediately suspended service in and out of the station. PATH and light rail service was also suspended Thursday, but the PATH part of the terminal was not damaged. PATH service resumed Thursday afternoon.

The Hoboken Terminal serves an estimated 50,000 commuters each day with NJ Transit, PATH, light rail, buses and ferries.

The investigation into the wreck could be slowed by safety issues in the damaged station, where water was leaking and there was a threat of asbestos contamination. Electrical power to the building was also cut off.

The White House called Christie to offer help and condolences after the wreck, and both presidential candidates sent along their regards to the crash victims.

“My condolences to those involved in today’s horrible accident in NJ and my deepest gratitude to all of the amazing first responders,” tweeted GOP nominee Donald Trump.

Democrat Hillary Clinton sent her “thoughts and prayers” to the victims and their relatives.

A Mother’s Day 2011 PATH train crash in the Hoboken station injured more than 30 people. The train, in a similar scenario to the Thursday wreck, slammed into bumpers at the end of the tracks on a Sunday morning.

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Paul G. Markel has worn many hats during his lifetime. He has been a U.S. Marine, Police Officer, Professional Bodyguard, and Small Arms and Tactics Instructor. Mr. Markel has been writing professionally for law enforcement and firearms periodicals for nearly twenty years with hundreds and hundreds of articles in print. Paul is a regular guest on nationally syndicated radio talk shows and subject matter expert in firearms training and use of force. Mr. Markel has been teaching safe and effective firearms handling to students young and old for decades and has worked actively with the 4-H Shooting Sports program. Paul holds numerous instructor certifications in multiple disciplines and a Bachelor’s degree in conflict resolution; nonetheless, he is and will remain a dedicated Student of the Gun.

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