A Shelton resident on board the northbound train that collided with another train Friday night said it was just random luck that he was able to walk away without a scratch.
“I’m very thankful that I’m OK, and I just hope the people that got hurt are able to recover,” Wayne Travers said Saturday morning, the day after the train collision sent 60 people to local hospitals, some of them in critical condition.
Travers, a former reporter at the Valley Gazette‘s sister publication, the Shelton Herald, has been a regular rail commuter for the past five years, said he had hurried to make the 4:41 out of Grand Central, and found a seat in the very last car.
“I’m never on that train, but my niece is graduating college in New Hampshire, so I wanted to get home early to get prepared to drive up first thing in the morning,” he said.
Travers was planning on exiting the train at the Bridgeport station, but just a few moments after departing Fairfield Metro, things started to go wrong, he said.
“The ride started getting bumpy and it was pretty clear that something was not right,” he said. “Then it got very, very bumpy and the train felt like it was starting to get sideways, then there was a huge crash.”
When the train crashed, anything that was unsecured went airborne, Travers said.
“I was sitting down, and when the train started to buck, I had grabbed on and braced myself,” he said. “But things were flying around.”
The conductor, who had been behind Travers as he was making his walk through the car, actually flew past and landed in front of him, he said.
Once the train came to a stop, though, the conductor immediately picked himself up and took control of the situation, directing passengers to evacuate, and making sure they did so safely.
“The train was tilting to the left, and the doors opened,” Travers said. “He was telling us not to go out the left side doors because there could be wires down.”
Once out of the train, the passengers could see the southbound train, and railroad ties were strewn about “like Lincoln Logs.” The steel rails were also twisted and snapped, he said.
The scene was tense, but not panicked, Travers said.
“There were injured people, and other passengers were caring for them as best they could,” he said. “The first responders were there almost instantly.”
Passengers who were not injured were gathered in a nearby parking lot and train crews took their names and contact information before loading the passengers onto a bus to the Bridgeport station.
“I was lucky, Bridgeport is where I park my car every day, so I was able to get in and drive home,” Travers said.
Though he had personally been lucky, he credited the Metro North staff with keeping the situation under control by remaining level-headed throughout the ordeal.
“The professionalism of the staff was amazing,” he said. “The conductor literally flew past me, then he was immediately up and doing what he needed to do, responding to the situation. Everyone should appreciate how well they did.”