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Damage to New Jersey train hampering investigation into Hoboken crash: NTSB

HOBOKEN, N.J. — Heavy damage to the front of a commuter train that slammed into a New Jersey station last month, killing a woman and injuring more than 100 people, is hampering the investigation into what went wrong.

The National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report Thursday it has scheduled additional testing after finding that the electronics controlling the train’s brakes and propulsion system were destroyed in the Sept. 29 crash of NJ Transit train 1614 at Hoboken Terminal.

Traversing twisted metal underneath a partially collapsed roof and amid exposed asbestos freed from the broken ceiling, investigators finally were about to access to the scene five days after the crash.

Investigators say other tests showed the train’s air brake system working as designed.

The New Jersey Transit train’s data recorder showed it speeding up and going twice the 10 mph speed limit just before it overrode a bump post at the end of the track and smashed through a wall of the historical terminal just across the river from Manhattan.

The train’s engineer hit the emergency brake less than a second before impact. The engineer was alone when the train crashed. He has told federal investigators he has no memory of the crash.

The train’s conductor said he noticed nothing unusual about the train’s speed as it arrived at the station. But he told investigators he was focused on the passengers — many of whom were standing in the aisles and vestibules of the overcrowded train, consisting of four cars instead of the usual five — at that time.

The crash killed Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, a 34-year-old mother, as she stood on the platform waiting for her train. Some 110 passengers and crewmembers were hurt, the agency said.

As for what caused the crash, the portion of the report labeled “Probable Cause” offers no clues.

A message in that section reads: “The information in this report is preliminary and will be supplemented or corrected during the course of the investigation.”