VALHALLA, N.Y. – Chaos reigned supreme on Tuesday night, as commuters relied on other commuters to give a helping hand as they fled from the deadly train accident in Valhalla.
Elizabeth Bordiga, a nurse who has been commuting for more than a decade – first from her home in Mamaroneck, now from the station at Goldens Bridge – was sitting on the fifth car on Tuesday night when the train struck a Jeep Cherokee, causing a catastrophic accident that took the lives of at least six.
In her 15 years commuting, Bordiga said that she has “never seen anything like this before.”
“It was like the conductor was slamming on the brakes. The car shook violently a few times, and we were all wondering what happened. We thought maybe ice or something like that,” she said. “We heard the conductor go on the loudspeaker to say something, but nothing ever came.”
Minutes later, a crew member, who “you could tell was shaken up,” announced that they struck a car, and members of the Metro-North staff checked on passengers to see if there were injuries. Bordiga said she then saw people migrating from the front of the train toward the back, both inside and out.
That was when the scent of gas began wafting through the train, prompting commuters to figure out how to best escape. Bordiga said that passengers were “going back and forth” about what steps should be taken and were given very little guidance by officials. After struggling with the emergency window, a firefighter eventually gained access by prying a space open between train cars.
According to Bordiga, it was all about commuters helping commuters to remain calm and escape the train. Several good Samaritans took charge and helped commuters onto the snowy embankment two at a time, where they were then sent to a nearby gym and restaurant to remain as warm as possible.
“It was very chaotic," she said. "People from behind us were screaming for us to get off, but the people in front of me had no where to go. There were commuters outside, two at a time helping us off the train. I got out of the car and could see the flames coming from the first car that was still on fire. I couldn’t believe it.
“The biggest thing about (Tuesday) night was commuters helping other commuters. They just stayed calm and helped one another out.”
From there, Bordiga said the commuters broke into groups that were traveling to similar locations, though it took more than an hour for friends and family to reach the location after several major roadways were shut down. Busses were supposed to be provided by the MTA, though she insists she didn’t see them. Instead, travelers “had to rely on other commuters and loved ones coming to get us.”
“(Commuting) is something I have to do, but I do know that I won’t ever sit in a front car again,” she said. “It was so chaotic, but the biggest thing was just commuters helping one another out, making sure everyone got out and was alright.”
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