UPDATE: A train derailment at 14th Street attributed to vandalism, person-of-interest in custody

The damaged A train at the 8th Avenue-14th Street station. (Photo via Twitter/@DayDayLavine)


Detectives cuffed a Bronx man Sunday night for allegedly throwing debris onto the tracks of the 8th Avenue-14th Street subway station on Sunday morning that caused an A train derailment that forced more than 135 people to be evacuated and snarled several train lines.

Demetrius Harvard, 30, of Mapes Avenue faces charges of reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, assault and criminal trespass for allegedly causing the derailment. 

Law enforcement sources said that moments before the northbound A train went off the tracks, at about 8:18 a.m. on Sept. 20, Harvard was observed hurling construction debris onto the track. That caused the train’s first car to derail upon entering the station. Harvard was taken into custody at the scene.

In a press conference on Sunday, MTA Chief Safety Officer Pat Warren, the front four tracks came of the rail leading several hundred feet of damage to third track as well as steel support pillars between tracks, which may mean service could be delayed through the Monday morning, but the goal for the MTA is to beat the self imposed deadline of rush hour. 

“We’ve ruled out that this was due to any malfunctioning of our equipment or any inappropriate action on the part of our crews. What it appears to be is some form vandalism from something that was put on the track,” Warren said.

While local service on the the C train was expected to be restored by the end of the day, Chief Operating Officer of Subways Frank Jezycki says there’s a lot of work to do before the morning rush that include hauling the wreckage of the derailed train out by diesel locomotive and then ensure the rail bed is in safe condition after all damaged infrastructure is replaced.

Acting MTA New York City Transit President Sarah Feinberg said the train struck debris on the roadbed as it pulled into the 8th Avenue-14th Street station, which caused a wheel to leave the track.

It also caused a loss of power that stopped another A train 20 blocks north, according to Feinberg.

“New York City Transit personnel will work around the clock to rerail the incident train, inspect several hundred feet of track, columns and third rail for damage and make necessary repairs, with the goal of restoring full service as soon as possible. While work is underway, trains will operate on the a line local track from Canal St to 59th St-Columbus Circle and will bypass 14 St in both directions. At this time, it is unclear whether express service will be available for the Monday morning rush,” Feinberg said. “I want to thank the NYC Transit workforce for their incredible dedication, ongoing hard work and perseverance during this incident, and our customers for their patience.”

Transport Workers Union Local 100 President Tony Utano said the derailment, which saw the MTA flex its manpower with over 100 workers on scene, stood as proof that the struggling agency cannot afford to reduce staff in the face of the financial impacts from COVID-19.

“This was an all-hands on deck emergency with transit workers from multiple divisions responding to assist riders and then begin repairing the extensive damage. It’s a stark reminder that the MTA can’t cut its front-line workers even if the federal government fails to provide funding in a Covid relief package,” Utano said.

Upon derailing, Fire Department sources said, the front car struck several steel support columns. It’s the only car off the tracks at this time.

One individual suffered minor injuries, according to the FDNY. Thirty passengers were safely removed from the derailed train.

A closed entrance to the 14th Street-8th Avenue A/C/E/L train station. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

The MTA reported that they have workers on the scene investigating the damage. In the meantime, northbound service on the 8th Avenue line between Canal Street and 59th Street-Columbus Circle has been suspended.

The derailment has impacted the A, C, D, E and F trains, all of which are being rerouted. It’s also caused “extremely limited” service on affected lines in uptown Manhattan and the Bronx.

Riders should anticipate extensive delays in Manhattan as a result, the MTA reported. Visit mta.info for the latest service updates. 

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