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New Jerseuy Train Crash; NTSB Press Conference; More Than 100 Injured in New Jersey Train Wreck. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 29, 2016 - 17:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... in Florida? You're not a huge fan of continuing the embargo. So like, who cares, you know, look (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

[17:00:07] HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Well, you know, we have laws in our country. And the efforts that Trump is making to get into the Cuban market, putting his business interests ahead of the laws of the United States and the requirements that businesses were operating under because of the sanctions, shows that he puts his personal and business interests ahead of the laws and the values and the policies of the United States of America.

Now, I was a strong supporter of moving toward creating an opening with Cuba when I was secretary of state. I applauded President Obama's efforts. And I will continue those when I am president. But...

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hillary Clinton aboard her plane. Full analysis coming up.

Happening now, at full speed. A commuter train plows through a terminal, slams into a barrier at the end of the track, and goes airborne. Witnesses say it was going full speed. One person is dead. More than 100 injured.

Crash investigation. Why was the train going so fast, and why was it not equipped with emergency braking technology? The engineer was found in the wreckage, unresponsive, but is now said to be cooperating with investigators.

Reality distortion field. Polls, pundits and his own allies say Donald Trump lost the first debate to Hillary Clinton, but Trump is convinced he won. Will that hurt him the next time around?

And a "fair game." Trump's campaign manager says there is nothing wrong with going after Bill Clinton's affairs. But Trump himself was famous for his infidelities, and with a new report saying he hired and fired female employees for their looks, is Trump facing new trouble?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news. An urgent investigation now under way into this morning's fatal crash of a crowded passenger train, which sped into a commuter terminal in Hoboken, New Jersey, slammed into the barrier at the end of the track, and went airborne, leaving a tangle of wreckage near the waiting area as stunned, bleeding passengers struggled out.

One person is dead. More than 100 are hurt, including the train's engineer, who was found unresponsive and is now said to be cooperating with investigators. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating why the train didn't slow down. There are some similarities to a crash five years ago at the same terminal.

It's now evening rush hour, and authorities are scrambling to find ways to help tens of thousands of commuters get from New York City to their homes in New Jersey. Some lines have resumed service.

In politics, Donald Trump is still insisting that he won the first debate with Hillary Clinton. And he's angry at allies who've challenged his version of reality.

At the same time, there is a move within Trump's campaign to target Bill Clinton's past indiscretions, but that would leave Trump open to similar attacks over his own infidelities and further alienate women offended by his record of insults.

We're standing by to speak to the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of the day's top stories.

Let's begin with our breaking news, the deadly crash of a packed commuter train. CNN's Brian Todd is live from Hoboken. He's at the terminal in New Jersey. What's the scene like now, Brian, and what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a short time ago, New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez told us that the engineer of the train which crashed had been cooperating with local authorities, but Menendez said that federal authorities from the railroad administration and the NTSB had not yet spoken with the engineer. We, of course, expect that to happen shortly.

Meantime tonight, we are getting horrific accounts of this crash from passengers, many of whom say they never even felt the train slow down before impact.


TODD (voice-over): Eyewitnesses say the New Jersey Transit commuter train went airborne before it slammed in the Hoboken terminal building during the busy rush-hour commute.

MIKE LARSON, TRAIN CRASH WITNESS: As soon as I heard it, it was right there in front of me, went through the bumper block, flew through the air. Through the depo.

JOHN MINKO, TRAIN CRASH WITNESS (via phone): And then all of a sudden, you hear the screaming and disbelief. But I saw the train slam. That's what -- I could not believe what, you know, I had seen there.

LARSON: A woman standing on the platform was killed by debris. More than 100 others were injured. Over 70 people were hospitalized.

MAYOR DAWN ZIMMER, HOBOKEN, NEW JERSEY: Sadly, we lost a Hoboken resident today. It was a Hoboken student that was killed in this accident.

[17:05:06] TODD: A passenger riding in the vestibule between the first two cars said the train didn't appear to slow as it entered the station.

BHAGVEST SHAN, TRAIN PASSENGER (via phone): I was hoping the train would stop now. But it just didn't stop. It kept going and going and going. But the next thing I know I'm on the floor. And when the train came to a stop, I could see the parts of the roof on the first car, and I could see some of the debris next to me.

JAMIE WEATHERHEAD-SAUL, TRAIN PASSENGER (via phone): Everyone that was standing in the vestibules between the first and second car flew over into the first car. And many people were thrown, and there was a lot of blood and people were hurt.

TODD: The Hoboken facility is one of the busiest train stations in the New York area, a crucial rail hub. More than 15,000 New Jersey Transit commuters pass through each day.

Tonight the NTSB and the Federal Railroad Administration have dispatched teams to the crash site, looking for answers to what the train operator was doing before the crash.

Albert Gill is a former train conductor who worked at the Hoboken station.

ALBERT GILL, FORMER TRAIN CONDUCTOR: It's all on the engineer.

It's on the engineer. They engineer gives the signals. If he falls through the signal, there is a cab system inside the actual cab of that Comet 5 that he's operating that will shut him down. By the time that system took over, it's too late.

TODD: None of the New Jersey Transit trains are equipped with positive train control, designed to automatically slow a train going too fast. But officials don't yet know how fast the train was traveling when it crashed.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: You don't jump to conclusions. You let the facts lead you to those conclusions. So we have nothing, really, to add to that. The train came in at much too high a rate of speed. And the question is why is that? And we won't know that for some time. As soon as we know, you can be sure we'll share it with the public.


TODD: Now, at this hour, there are still come concerns over the structural integrity of this train station. We're told that the trains from the Port Authority Trans-Hudson line. Those are the trains that go under the river here to Manhattan. Those operate below ground, and that that part of the train station is structurally sound right now. That's why those so-called PATH trains have been put back into operation.

But the trains from the New Jersey Transit system, they operate above ground. That part of the station, investigators are still trying to determine if that part of the station is structurally sound right now. And we're told that the teams investigating that are going in and out of there at some risk to their own safety to try to make that determination, Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us from Hoboken. Brian, thanks very much.

Let's continue the breaking news. An investigation is under way into the crash of that passenger train, which slammed into a commuter terminal in Hoboken, New Jersey. One person, once again, is dead. More than 100 others are hurt.

Joining us now on the phone is the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie.

Governor, thanks very much for joining us.

CHRISTIE (via phone): Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: So sorry that we have to discuss what is clearly a horrible crash. What is the latest, Governor, you can tell us about the investigation into this crash?

CHRISTIE: Well, NTSB and the Federal Railway Administration are now on the scene, and they are coordinating directly with the New Jersey state attorney general's office. We're providing support and law enforcement folks to NTSB and the Federal Railway Administration. They're likely to hold a press briefing later tonight, NTSB and the Federal Railway Administration, to discuss their process and what they expect to go from here.

I don't expect anything new, Wolf, will be reported today on the cause of the crash. I will say that the engineer was taken to the hospital. He has since been released from the hospital. And so we are going to work hard with NTSB and the FRA to figure out what the cause of this crash was.

A hundred and fourteen people total were injured in the crashes. Fifty-five were attended to by EMS, 22 transported by New Jersey Transit to hospitals, and 37 were walk-ins.

And as we had said earlier, there was one fatality. Unfortunately, a 34-year-old female resident of Hoboken was killed while waiting on the platform today.

BLITZER: How -- how serious, Governor, are the injuries that you're seeing from this crash? CHRISTIE: Wolf, so far, we think we've been really blessed that the

injuries -- we don't believe that there will be any further fatalities from this and that the folks who have been taken to the hospital, while some of them were relatively seriously injured, we don't expect at this point, at least, any of those to result in fatalities. And so our prayers are with those folks and hoping that that's exactly the result.

BLITZER: Yes, our prayers are with them, as well.

Governor, the New Jersey Transit Authority was supposed to install what's called positive train control or automatic braking by 2015 but took an advantage of an extended deadline, put off installation until the end of 2018. Was that a deadly mistake in this case?

[17:10:04] CHRISTIE: Wolf, we have no way of knowing that. Remember what that system does. It slows down a train that is going too fast. Here, we don't know what the cause was of it going too fast. Was it a system failure? Was it human error? Was it a medical emergency involving the engineer? We don't know.

And so you can't tell whether that type of system -- and we have other systems in place that you heard the engineer that was on your lead-in to this talking about, that helped to prevent this.

But sometimes when the -- the engineer is the ultimate person in charge over any system. And so, you know, we need to know what happened here before we can make any determination on that.

BLITZER: But if it's found, Governor, that positive train control or this automatic braking system could have prevented this deadly crash, what steps will you take to speed up the implementation of those systems?

CHRISTIE: Well, as I said earlier today, passenger safety is the first priority of New Jersey Transit, and Governor Cuomo said the same about the MTA. And if, in fact, we need to install that, and that's been proven to be a problem with this particular crash, that's something that we'll examine right away.

But right now, Wolf, we have no indication of that at all. There's nothing in the factual record that would indicate that's what happened here.

BLITZER: If it was human error -- let's say the engineer fell asleep or had a heart attack or whatever -- shouldn't there always be two engineers in place, in case one of them gets ill?

CHRISTIE: You know, Wolf, that's not been the standard that we have had across the country regarding -- regarding train operation. Now, whether or not something like this -- and depending, again, on what the cause is. You know, as I said, the engineer was released from the hospital. So whether or not, you know, someone who, as you were speculating, sustained a heart attack would be released from the hospital the same day, that seems -- I'm a little skeptical about that. So, you know, we're going to have to find out exactly what happened

here with the engineer in his operation of this train. He is cooperating with law enforcement. And so once we find that out, then we can help to make other determinations. But that has not been the standard in train operation, especially in this area.

BLITZER: Yes, I know it hasn't been the standard, but what happens -- there have been crashes, as you know, Governor, because an engineer simply fell asleep.

CHRISTIE: Well, listen, and you know, Wolf, and we have those kind of crashes that happen with automobiles every day, as well, and trucks that travel our roadways.

The question is are we going to put -- make sure -- you know, require two people in every car to keep a driver awake. I mean, you know, at some point you have to also count on the responsibility of the people who are executing their duties.

Now, I don't know what happened here with this engineer, and I don't want to prejudge that this is -- was his mistake and not a mechanical failure or some other problem. So before we start jumping to conclusions, Wolf, and getting all breathless, why don't we let the NTSB and the FRA do their investigation with law enforcement in New Jersey, and then we can make the determination and then draw appropriate conclusions from there.

What the people in New Jersey should know, though, is that PATH service is going to be working tomorrow -- right now and for this evening's rush. The ferry service will be back again tomorrow morning. And we're going to restore service to the Hoboken terminal on New Jersey Transit as soon as we can but only when we can do so safely.

BLITZER: Should there be cameras inside where the engineer is so that -- and maybe even live streaming? We would know if the engineer were at fault -- for example, if the engineer fell asleep or had a problem -- if there were cameras inside.

CHRISTIE: Listen, that's something -- all these things are things that we can look at, Wolf. But again, what if we find out it was a mechanical failure? You know, you just -- you're presuming certain things for the cause of this accident, Wolf, and there's just -- you have no basis to make that determination, and neither do I.

So I'd be happy to come back into THE SITUATION ROOM when we know what the facts are, and then be able to decide what the prescription would be. This would be like a doctor writing you a prescription, Wolf, before he examines you or knows of any of your symptoms.

BLITZER: I only ask the questions, Governor, because I've covered a lot of these train crashes over the years, and I unfortunately, have to ask the same questions about cameras, about these automatic braking systems, because very often it is a human error. And I don't know if it's a human error this time. It could be a mechanical problem. But I've asked these questions over the years. And unfortunately. still no cameras inside these -- these trains watching the conductor -- the engineer, I should say, and still no automatic braking system.

I have no idea why this particular train crashed, but I've asked these questions on many occasions. That's why I'm asking them now. To make sure we learn -- and you want to do this more than anyone, learn from the mistakes to prevent injury and death down the road. Right?

CHRISTIE: Absolutely. And my point to you is I'm happy to give you answers to those questions as soon as we have evidence to support what happened in this crash.

And I think it's really important for someone in a position like governor of the state to not jump to conclusions and to not impugn the reputation of anyone before we have a basis to do so. And if I start speculating in that regard, I think that's what some of the stories would be. I don't want that to be it.

[17;15:08] What we really need to be focused on is finding the facts of what happened here. We are focused on that. And then, once we have that, we'll discuss and I'm happy to come back on and discuss all the various prescriptions that may fix and how we can help to make mass transit in the tri-state region here in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania even more safe.

BLITZER: Yes. That's our goal, all of our goal. We want these passengers aboard these trains to always be safe.

And you're always welcome, of course, Governor, to join me here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

I know you've got to run. But let me ask you one quick question on some breaking political news. Dana Bash and Gloria Borger are reporting that some folks inside the Trump campaign want you to manage Mr. Trump's debate prep. I know you've said that you haven't been asked to do so, but would you be willing to take over how Donald Trump is getting ready for the next debate if asked?

CHRISTIE: Listen, Wolf, as I've said all along, my advice and counsel to Donald Trump are between me and Donald Trump. And you know, I have shown myself willing to help in any way that I could help in the course of this campaign since endorsing Donald at the end of February.

But, you know, my view is I've got plenty to do as chairman of the transition and governor of the state of New Jersey and helping him on the campaign in other ways. You know, nothing has been asked of me to do more. If there is, I'd certainly have that conversation with Donald at the time. But, you know, I'm not going to presuppose anything at this point.

BLITZER: Yes. I know you're also attending all of his national security intelligence briefings, as well, so you've got a lot going on. But you think you could help him get a little bit better in that second debate?

CHRISTIE: Wolf, everybody in the world who watches it thinks they can do it better. I invite any of them to get up on stage and try to do it and see how they do. I think Donald did well on Monday night. I think he'll do even better

a week from Sunday.

BLITZER: Governor, thank you so much for joining us. We wish only the best for everyone in New Jersey right now, all those passengers and others who are still being treated. We hope they all make full recoveries. Good luck to you. Good luck to everyone on the scene.

CHRISTIE: Wolf, thank you very much and thanks for having me in THE SITUATION ROOM.

BLITZER: Governor. Governor Chris Christie joining us from New Jersey.

We're going to have much more coming up on this, the breaking news, this train crash. Let's take a quick break. We'll resume our breaking news coverage in a moment.


[17:21:45] BLITZER: We're standing by for a news conference for the National Transportation Safety Board. Members are now on the scene in Hoboken, New Jersey. We're following the breaking news, that deadly train crash earlier today. Momentarily, that news conference will begin. We'll have live coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's get some more, though, on the investigation. CNN's Rene Marsh is joining us.

Rene, this is obviously in the very early stages of the investigation, but we know the train came into the terminal at high speed. You've been talking to your sources. What are investigators looking for right now?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the one piece of information that just came out of your interview with Governor Christie in which he says that the engineer has now been dispatched from the hospital, that is a good piece of information for investigators, because their priority with the NTSB is getting to this engineer, interviewing him, as well as retrieving the train's recorders.

I want to show you, NTSB engineers -- investigators, I should say, they are on the scene now. Hoboken train station is the focus of their investigation. I am told from a source, though, because of the damage, the extensive damage, and because it's so unstable, they have not been able to make their way -- I'm talking about NTSB investigators -- into this area here.

This is the terminal where the crash happened. And this is the direction where all of the trains make their way into the terminal. We know that this train, with more than 200 people on board, came in on Track 5. This purple line here, that's the platform. We've been talking about that one fatality. That individual was standing on the platform here. And so this train, with more than 200 people on board, came in on Track 5. What we do know, Wolf, at this point is that this train, about 45

minutes before the crash, this is it. Surveillance video picked it up. It looked like everything was going just fine. Again, surveillance video picking up the exact train, about 45 minutes before the crash. But we know that, once it got to the station, that things went terribly wrong. Witnesses saying that that train never slowed down.

We do know that the speed limit as it is approaching the terminal is roughly about 5 miles per hour. But witnesses saying that they believe the train was going some 30 miles per hour, obviously excessive speed. And you can see this is the collapse here. This was the direct aftermath. Lots of ambulance and first responders there on the scene.

We do know that, Wolf, aside from the recorder and talking to the engineer, the investigators are going to want to look at the signals. Were they working properly? And was everything on the train functioning properly, Wolf?

BLITZER: Rene Marsh reporting for us. Thank you.

We're now joined by the former NTSB chair, Deborah Hersman. She's now president and CEO of the National Safety Council.

Deborah, thanks very much for joining us. What's the latest you're hearing about this investigation into the crash?

DEBORAH HERSMAN, FORMER NTSB CHAIR: You know, I'd say this is the first 24 hours, really important for them to get on scene, get access to those recorders, the cameras that have surveillance footage around the station. And hearing that that engineer can potentially be interviewed, that's going to be key.

[17:25:08] BLITZER: You're the former chairman of the NTSB. What other factors do you look for at this very early stage into this investigation of the crash?

HERSMAN: So one of the things you really want to do is start ruling things out. If they can rule out sabotage, if they can rule out mechanical failure. Being able to get eyes on that equipment, making sure that the brakes were functioning. If there was an emergency brake application, there is going to be some tell-tale signs on the wheels there. They're going to want to look at the brake shoes.

All of those things are really important. And if you can rule things out, that allows you to really focus on the stuff that's important.

BLITZER: What could be the likely causes of a train entering that Hoboken train station at such a high speed? I spoke with some of the passengers who said that train never slowed down even a bit.

HERSMAN: You know, and I think certainly, that it's important to listen to those passenger experiences, witness accounts. But you also want to get some evidence to corroborate those things, like the recorders on board the train. The event recorders will tell you throttle position, braking. And also looking at the physical equipment to see that, as well.

You know, coming into a train station, anyone who rides a train, you know you're slowing down well before you get to the train station. It's a congested area. So they're going to also want to understand the health conditions of that engineer. If there isn't anything wrong with the train, they're going to start looking at the operator.

BLITZER: And then it could be human error.

Is it surprising that the only fatality from this crash wasn't on the train itself but a woman who happened to have been standing on the platform?

HERSMAN: Oh, my gosh. Looking at the pictures and the devastation that occurred in that environment, it is -- it is really amazing. And I think everyone's very grateful for the lack of fatalities, because it could have been a lot worse.

BLITZER: So basically, the bottom line right now is this train did not have that automatic braking system that was supposed to be in place by 2015. Now it's -- the deadline is 2018. Do you think, if it would have had that automatic braking system, this accident might not have occurred?

HERSMAN: You know, it's still too early, because we don't know enough about what occurred on the train. But this is the kind of event that positive train control is absolutely designed to prevent. And so, over-speed events, train-to-train collisions, you absolutely know -- you want to be slowing down coming into the station.

Positive train control is designed to start to apply the brakes if the engineer fails to do so. And so it's really that backup system, the redundancy to human failure.

BLITZER: And we don't know what happened, but there have been cases where an engineer fell asleep or got sick, passed out or whatever. Why are there not always two engineers aboard?

HERSMAN: So, train operations, passenger operations, you'll generally see an engineer, and with the conductor in the back, collecting the tickets, dealing with the passengers.

In freight operations, you'll generally see an engineer and a conductor in the locomotive cab. But the requirements are to have that licensed engineer up front.

But the beauty of positive train control, it is the backup to that human being. We often have seen freight train collisions where two people were in the cab, and you still have a failure. You still potentially have both falling asleep or being distracted. And so positive train control does help in many situations. Distraction, fatigue, even a medical incapacitation. You want that backup system.

BLITZER: Deborah Hersman, the former chair of the NTSB. Deborah, thanks very much, as usual, for joining us.

HERSMAN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's bring in Melanie Zanona, the transportation reporter for "The Hill"; and CNN analyst Peter Goelz. He's the former managing director of the NTSB.

So we're getting more information, Peter, from the governor and others right now. What does it look like to you?

PETER GOELZ, CNN ANALYST: Well, I think it's still too early to call, but, as Deborah said, what you do now is you eliminate things. You eliminate the track. You can eliminate the braking system, if there's been -- you can test that. You can eliminate other, you know, elements of the accident investigation. And then you're going to zero in on human factors.

BLITZER: What similarities this accident, this crash, Melanie, do you see compared to some others in recent years?

MELANIE ZANONA, TRANSPORTATION REPORTER, "THE HILL": Right. Last year we had a deadly Amtrak crash near Philadelphia. And in that case, it was the conductor, who got distracted, sped around a curve. And there was no automatic braking system in place there.

And federal investigators came out and said that would have prevented the crash.


BLITZER: Or a second engineer on that train could have prevented the crash, as well.

ZANONA: Potentially, yes.

BLITZER: You know, there are hundreds of passengers on these trains Peter, I don't understand why they can't have two engineers because the lives of these people are at risk.

PETER GOELZ, CNN ANALYST: Well, I think there's two reasons. The first is money.

BLITZER: Money. I mean it's ...

GOELZ: That's the cost ...

BLITZER: ... how much do you pay an engineer a year? $100,000 a year. $200,000 a year. When you're considering the lives of so many people they should be able to afford that.

GOELZ: And I think as Deborah said, the other element is we're looking at positive train control as the backup to the engineer. Now, in this case it probably wouldn't have affected it because positive train control is not something that's used in terminal areas because the speeds are so slow. But leading up -- into the terminal, it would have been in effect and it just wasn't there. But it's an issue that's going to be debated very heavily in the coming months. BLITZER: Do you think that until they get the positive train control

or this automatic braking system in place for all of these trains they might want to reconsider and at least have two engineers in case one of them gets sick, passes out, dozes off, is negligent.

DEBORAH: They could. The feds are actually considering a rule right now that would require minimum standards for these trains. But in the meantime trains are supposed to get in compliance by the end of 2018. Now incidents like this could certainly step up pressure in some railroads to come into compliance much earlier.

BLITZER: All right, stand by for a moment. We're getting ready for this NTSB News Conference. It will be live right here on CNN. Let's take a quick break, we'll be right back.





BELLA DINN-ZARR, VICE CHAIR, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: ... every civil aviation accident and significant accidents in other areas such as rail, marine, highways, pipeline and hazardous materials. We also issue safety recommendations in order to prevent tragedies from happening again. Before I go on I would first like to express my sincere condolences to everyone affected by this accident today. And, let everyone know that our thoughts s go out to you and our hearts go out to you.

I would also like to thank all of the first responders who have assisted us today. Here is what we know right now. We are working with New Jersey Transit to assess the safety of the scene. The canopy of the building is on top of the controlling car, and water has been leaking all day. So there may be some structural damage and weakness.

Additionally, because of the age of the building, there is the possibility of asbestos. So there are concerns about that as well. A contractor will be coming in to remove parts of the canopy. And that's with the goal of making the area safe for our investigation activities to continue. Once that is done, then we will be able to access the cars. And we will continue our investigative process in that -- that aspect.

We can currently access the locomotive, which is at the end of this train and will be pulling the event recorder this evening. From the event recorder we hope to get information such as speed and braking. We know that there were three passenger cars and a locomotive in a push/pull configuration. The engineer was operating the train from the cab car, also called the controlling car.

We also know the train had outward-facing video recorders on both ends of the train, and we also will be recovering both of those. The NTSB will analyze the facts, determine the probable cause of the accident, and issue a report of those determinations. The investigator in charge I have with me here today, and his name is Mr. Jim Southworth. He has 19 years' worth of experience with the NTSB and over 35 years' worth of experience with railway operations. He is leading a multi- disciplinary group of experts, and they will be examining the following areas; operations, mechanical issues human performance, signals, survival factors and track issues.

In addition to our investigators, we also have our specialists from our Office of Transportation Disaster Assistance to assist those who have been affected by this accident. Tomorrow morning we'll be holding an organizational meeting, and we'll be establishing the parties to our investigation. The parties will provide the technical expertise we need for this investigation.

Tomorrow will also be our first full day on the scene, since we arrived today. But I want to emphasize that we will only proceed when -- to inspect the cars when it's safe to do so. It may be tomorrow afternoon before we can safely do that. But we'll be proceeding with other aspects of the investigation in the meantime.

Our investigation will continue here on scene for seven to ten days, and our mission is to not just understand what happened but to understand why it happened so that we can prevent it from happening again. We will not be determining the probable cause while on and we will not speculate what may have caused the accident.


DINN-ZARR: Since we're just beginning our investigation we don't have a great deal of information to report yet, but we'll keep you informed with regular updates as we discover more information. We're here to find the most accurate information about this accident. And if the public has relevant information about this investigation, I encourage you to contact us. The e-mail is

And, for the latest information on media briefings, I encourage you also to follow us on twitter and our website, which is And our twitter handle is @ntsb_newsroom.

So, now I'd be happy to take a few questions. But to ask your question, please raise your hand. I'll recognize you, and then please identify yourself. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: [ inaudible question ]

DINN-ZARR: The question is about positive train control and how it would have affected this accident. And that is absolutely one area that we always look into for every rail accident. As you know, the NTSB has been recommending positive train control, or PTC, for 40 years. So we will look at that. We will look at whether there was positive train control installed and all of the aspects related to that before we come to any conclusions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Earlier the Governors of New York and New Jersey mentioned that the train was moving at a high rate of speed. I know it's early in the investigation, you haven't even accessed the cars yet. Is there anything you can say to that (inaudible)?

DINN-ZARR: We -- we cannot know what other people have found. What we're here to do is to find the most accurate information. That's what the NTSB does. We are going to be pulling that event recorder from the locomotive, which it is safe to do that at this point. So, once we pull that we'll have more information about the speed and braking and other issues. There is also an event recorder in the cab car, the controlling car, and we'll be getting that as soon as we can access that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- the engineer, and if so what has he told you?

DINN-ZARR: So, the engineer as you may know was injured. He has been released from the hospital and we will be interviewing him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: [inaudible question]

DINN-ZARR: We always -- the question is, is there any problem with the delay, with the investigation, because of the safety. Our first priority is the safety of our investigators and the first responders. So we will get the information we can currently, and there is information we can get from the locomotive, which is accessible, but we're going to make sure that our investigators and any first responders are safe before we access any of the other information. And that information is in the train. It's not going anywhere. We have plenty of people back there watching it. We'll be able to access it and get the information we need. Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: [ inaudible question ]

DINN-ZARR: The question is did I say something about --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... I thought maybe you said something early on about the position of an arm or something.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: [ inaudible question ]

DINN-ZARR: The question is about the speed limit going into the station. The speed limit is ten miles per hour going into the station.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... do you have an early sense of how fast it was going?

DINN-ZARR: We're going to wait and get the exact information on the speed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the trains are equipped with an alarm where, if something happens to the engineer, the train will stop itself if they don't respond. Do you know if that system was in effect and if what (inaudible)?

DINN-ZARR: The question is about the alerter and whether that was in effect. And, we are in the initial phases. We do not know. We will find out and report that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... recorder in the cab verse the locomotive do they record different things or will they have basically the same information?


DINN-ZARR: The question is about the data recorder in the cab car, the controlling car versus the data recorder in the locomotive. And they're both outward facing cameras so they'll have different information. We don't know exactly what that information is. But, as soon as we get it we have our top experts in recorders here who will be telling us that. Yes.

UNIDENTFIED MALE: Have you seen any video ...

DINN-ZARR: ... oh sorry, the gentleman in back.


BLITZER: The monitor of the NTSB news conference. Bella Dinn-Zarr, the Vice Chair of the NTSB offering some new information. Peter Goelz is with us, Melanie Zanona is with us as well.

Peter Goelz what do you take away from that, what she told us?

GOELZ: Well, I think that what she said is correct. They're just getting started. We'll know more tomorrow. When they get the recorder off the rear end of the train tonight, they'll download it. And, I think by 5:00 o'clock we'll know what the speed was.

BLITZER: By 5:00 p.m. Tomorrow?


BLITZER: 24 hours or so from now?

GOELZ: I think so. There is no reason to hold that information back, and the NTSB is pretty good about releasing it quickly.

BLITZER: Melanie, what was your take away.

MELANIE ZANONA, TRANSPORTATION REPORTER, THE HILL: Well, we still don't know what caused the crash. We don't know if this technology would have prevented it. But what we do know is that Congress has asked these railroads to implement this technology and the Fed just came out with a report that showed they're really slow to adopt it. You know, 9% of freight railroads have this in operation. 22% of passenger rails. So there's still a long way to go.

BLITZER: She said the NTSB has been asking these train -- these railroads for 40 years to get the positive train control, this automatic braking system. What's the problem?

GOELZ: Well, at the beginning nobody wanted to do it. In recent years they found that it's much more expensive. The rail -- the rail lines claim $6 to $8 billion they've spent of their own money and it's more complex.

BLITZER: All right.

GOELZ: But the answer is it should have been in place.

BLITZER: It should have been in place for sure.

Guys stay with us. We're going to continue to stay on top of the breaking news. We'll take a quick break.





BLITZER: We continue monitoring breaking news as rush hour commuters are trying to get home after today's deadly train cash in New Jersey. We're standing by for updates from investigators.


BLITZER: We're also following breaking news in the presidential race.


BTLIZER: CNN has learned some of Donald Trump's advisers want to overhaul his debate preparations and possibly ask Governor Chris Christie to take a leading role.

CNN's Jim Acosta is joining us from Detroit. Jim, Trump still claims he still won that first debate, doesn't he?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And, earlier today in New Hampshire, he was saying that the debate was rigged, so they have been all over the place on this. But the battle now for Trump is proving he is not insensitive to women.


[ANNOUNCER]: You are the new Miss Universe.

ACOSTA: Still no apologies from Donald Trump in response to allegations he called former Miss Universe Alicia Machado Miss Piggy after she gained weight back in the '90s.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Clintons are the sordid past. We will be the very bright and clean future.

ACOSTA: Instead of expressing regret for the saga, marked on the cover of this week's New Yorker, the Trump campaign is going on the offensive, zeroing in on Hillary and Bill Clinton's marital troubles when he was in the White House.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: It's fair game to think about how Hillary Clinton treated those women after the fact.

ACOSTA: In Trump campaign talking points, obtained by CNN, surrogates for the GOP nominee are urged to drudge up Bill Clinton's past affairs. Why are we not hearing from Monica Lewinsky who started an anti-bullying foundation because of how she was treated by the Clinton machine reads one of the talking points. A line of attack echoed by Trump's son, Eric on Sean Hannity's radio show.

VOICE OF ERIC TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S SON: It's amazing when you hear her about sexism and these various claims, which are ridiculous aside from obviously Bill, her husband, being maybe the worst that's ever lived.

UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: I'm not sitting here some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette.

ACOSTA: In a sign the election is getting nastier than ever the Trump campaign accuses Hillary Clinton of enabling her husband's behavior, pointing to how she handled the scandals.

HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it is this vast right wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for President.

ACOSTA: But even Trump's own supporters in congress think that's a bad move.

REP, BRUCE BABIN, (R) TEXAS: We need to stay on the issues that are important to the American people. You know, that's ancient history.

ACOSTA: Sources tell CNN Trump is still fuming over criticism from inside his camp over his debate performance. Even as top advisors are looking for ways to shake up his preparations for his next face off with Clinton and perhaps put New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie in charge.

But Trump is facing more distractions, namely new questions of his treatment of women. The Los Angeles Times unearthed court documents that show some of Trump's former employers claim he hired and fired female employees based on their looks.

A director of catering is quoted saying "I had witnessed Donald Trump tell managers many times while he was visiting the club that restaurant hostesses were not pretty enough and that they should be fired and replaced with more attractive women." Not true, says the Trump organization, adding in a statement "The allegations in the lawsuit were meritless. We do not engage in discrimination of any kind."

The Trump campaign insists the GOP nominee has been a champion of women who is only trying to help the Miss Universe at the center of this latest Trump controversy. But top Trump surrogate Newt Gingrich continued to pile on the attacks.

NEWT GINGRICH, (R) FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: You're not supposed to gain 60 pounds when you've won Miss Universe.



ACOSTA: Now, as for those Trump campaign talking points instructing surrogates to go after Bill Clinton's personal life, a Clinton campaign spokesperson released a statement saying that is a mistake that is going to backfire. Wolf?

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thank you very much. Coming up, our breaking news.


BLITZER: A commuter train plows through a terminal, slams into a barrier at the end of the track, and goes airborne. Witnesses say it was going full speed. Investigators are trying to figure out why.

And why wasn't that train equipped with automatic braking technology? Could it have made a difference?