It was a long ride home for some Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) commuters last Wednesday, June 23. It appears that a debris strike was the cause of disrupted service on the 9:42 p.m. train leaving Penn Station eastbound en route to Huntington, according to the LIRR spokesperson Joe Calderone.
The 10-car commuter train was struck as it passed through the Floral Park Train Station at approximately 10:17 p.m. “It was a debris strike. We’re replacing rail, roughly between Queens Village and New Hyde Park as a rail replacement project,” he said. As part of the LIRR’s rail replacement project that is currently under way, material is laid down along the right-of-way, Calderone explained. “This is pretty standard procedure so that when the weekend work is commencing, all the materials that they need are in place along the right-of-way,” he said.
Accoring to Calderone, a safety investigation is being conducted to find out the source of the debris. “It appears that the train struck tie-plates that were laid down as part of the [rail replacement] work. In order to secure the rail to the ties, there are plates that are used…and it appears that the train struck one or more of those plates and it caused significant damage to the train,” he explained. Calderone added that it also appears that the plates and or ballast, which consists of the rocks underneath the rails themselves, were jettisoned off the right-of-way. “We have some reports of some cars being struck in the commuter parking lot below. So all of that is what we’re looking at and, obviously, we’re investigating the cause,” he stated.
Calderone said the LIRR does not know at this point why the train struck this material. “It’s placed in a spot where it is not supposed to come in contact with the train… so why it came in contact with the train is under investigation,” he stated. As a result of the debris strike, Calderone said commuters faced delays because the LIRR had to inspect the entire right-of-way to there to make sure as trains moved through that there was no other equipment out of place. Commuters were safely transported to another train and the train is now out of service and under repair.
As a precautionary measure, Calderone said that the tie plates, which are normally laid down in between the running rails, were moved from where they were prior to the incident. “We have moved them in this section where we are working between Queens Village and New Hyde Park, so that they are now still on the right-of-way but they are not inside the running rails. They are off to the side, they are to the south of the track of the rails,” he said.
The LIRR is asking any homeowners or commuters who believe any of their property was damaged in this incident, to call the LIRR Claims Department at 718-558-8292, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., on weekdays.