TODAY   |  December 02, 2013

Train derailment investigators using black boxes

A Metro North train derailed Sunday in New York City, killing four people and injuring 63. Officials say excessive speed may have played a critical role in the accident as investigators are looking for details in the black boxes

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> we do want to begin with the accident as our top story and nbc's tom costello is in the bronx with the very latest on the investigation. tom, good morning.

>> reporter: hey, natalie. good morning to you. we're at the crash scene. you can see they managed to right several of the cars already. four dead, 63 injured. the engineer is in the hospital. the ntsb has the digital recordings from both ends of the train. the black boxes . they hoping that will tell them how fast was the train traveling and might there have been a mechanical problem. working in the cold under the glare of flood lights crews begin picking up the remains of the train, the deadliest crash in over 20 years. the job for investigators piecing together how this happened on a heavily travelled line along the hudson river .

>> our mission is to understand not just what happened but why it happened with the intent of preventing it from happening again.

>> reporter: they describe a horrific scene with victims tossed through the cars and ejected out the windows.

>> it started to flip and fell over and passengers fell on top of me. there was screaming and people flying.

>> i saw people being carried out. people that couldn't walk were being helped.

>> reporter: the trip started in poughkeepsie new york bound for grand central station in manhattan. at 7:20 a.m . the train went off the track in the bronx near the hudson river . it needed to slow from 70 to 30 miles per hour but many witnesses reported it was going much too fast. the engineer told law enforcement his brakes malfunctioned. the trains make this dramatic 90 degree left hand turn but in this case they went off the tracks and toward the harlem river . since speed was a factor, the question is why.

>> safety is job one and if there is a lesson to learn from this tragedy, we want to make sure that we learn it. so we're probably most eager to hear the results of the ntsb investigation.

>> reporter: this is a busy train line. 50,000 people take the hudson line into and out of manhattan every single day and this morning you might imagine there's significant delays and you might want to plan an extra hour to 90 minute ifs you're coming into work today n. some cases they're on shuttle buses. standard procedure, the crew given drug and alcohol testing. they're also going to check and see how much sleep the crew had just before this accident. the night before. and is there any evidence that they were distracted? texting while operating the vehicle, anything like that. you may remember, guys, we had several big high profile and terrible accidents recently in which train operators were found to be speeding and texting while operating. back to you.

>> tom costello on the story. thank you very much. new