Thousands of people stranded at Grand Central due to a fire on Metro North railroad

Photo by the New York Times of the fire at Metro North

Photo by the New York Times of the fire at Metro North

On Tuesday May 17 during rush hour, a fire swept below the Metro North train tracks in East Harlem, New York. The fire left thousands of pedestrians stranded at Grand Central, unable to return home.

The fire was caused by a fuel spill when workers were fixing the generator underneath the tracks. The New York Police Department (NYPD) investigated the scene of the fire for two days and came to the conclusion that it could have been the propane tanks. The fire resulted in eight deaths and the destruction of two apartment buildings.

Elizabeth Rhoads ’17 was in the city for her ballet rehearsal at BAE when she received the information that the trains were halted from Grand Central due to the fire.

“I couldn’t take any train and I live in Westport so my parents couldn’t come pick me up because of my little sister and we were just trying to figure out a way to get home,” Rhoads said. “I had to go to Westchester and get rides from different dance friends.”

Rhoads stated that her parents were unaware of what was occurring at Grand Central; therefore, it was difficult to craft an alternate route back to Westport.

The following day, the trains were running on a limited schedule, so Rhoads’s parents had to drive her to her rehearsal. The damage of the tracks was severe and Metro North took additional precautions to ensure the safety of the passengers and the vehicles.

Emily Porter ’17 was at a 1975 concert at Barclays Center when she heard about the train suspension. “There were screens [in Grand Central] with a notice on it saying there would be no more service for the night,” Porter said. Porter and her friends returned from New York City to Westport in an uber.

Maddy Sell ’18 was also at the 1975 concert in New York. “I was so scared and had no idea what to do and this guy who was 19 and went to Yale was trying to make the same train as me helped me out because I had no phone and basically no money left,” Sell said.

Luis Diaz, an employee at Kyle Restaurant and Grill on Park Avenue told the New York Times that he heard a booming noise and immediately rushed outside to see a cloud of black smoke coming from the tracks. “It was terrifying. We were all caught by surprise. It just got worse and worse,” Diaz told the New York Times.

The trains transferred back to their everyday schedule a few days after the fire.

Rhoads stated that she takes the train six days per week, twice a day in order to get to her rehearsal. “It’s just scary being so close to that because I go over that spot where the fire happened every day,” Rhoads said.