Fire at 96th Street Subway Station Sparks Panicked Rush to Exits


File photo.

A fire that broke out under the Broadway subway line on Wednesday caused commuters to run out of the station around 4:30 p.m., leaving their possessions behind.

The fire was caused by a smoking cable, an MTA rep told the Daily News: “It was not a bomb, but a smoking cable, where electricity jumped through insulation and connected to a wrong wire, ‘(causing) sparks — and can cause loud sounds,’ according to MTA spokesman Shams Tarek.”

The FDNY told the News that something had touched the third rail. Three people reportedly sustained minor injuries.

Witnesses described the chaos:

NEWS | 28 comments | permalink
    1. Margaret says:

      This sounds so terrifying.

      What’s the plan for a forced evacuation from a station like 79th Street, where the MTA doesn’t have enough northbound exit stairs to handle the regular everyday use?

      I can’t even picture the situation described here at the exits from 79th Street. It sounds like people would be injured in a stampede or trapped in the station.

      • Woody says:

        They open the emergency sidewalk grates which then give people a reason to whine about the lack of safety cones around these exits.

    2. Jen says:

      Judging by the commuters reaction, especially “fire…size of the tunnel…reaching to the platform”, the explanation from MTA greatly downplays what happened. Can WR reach out to MTA and FDNY to see what the root of the issue was, other than “something touched the third rail” and “it could cause sparks and loud noise? Sounded like more than just “sparks”.
      We have to get more info and reach out to our elected officials to finally hold MTA accountable for multiple subway issues. But we need the info first, MTA won’t disclose it to regular commuters.

      • Woody says:

        You’re demanding more info from the MTA but you’ve already prejudged that the MTA downplayed the issue without knowing what happened. Then why do you need more info? Have you ever experienced a high-voltage electrical fire to know that it’s more than just sparks?

        It’s interesting that you put so much credence into one tweet from someone you don’t know about the fire reaching toward the station like it’s some Indiana Jones scene. Because hysterical people never exaggerate.

        • Jen says:

          Why are you so hysterical regarding more info request? How is it bad?

          • Woody says:

            What is hysterical about my comment? You suck at reading comprehension if you haven’t figured out that I was referring to the hysterical people who claimed the fireball was rolling into the station. Aside from that, you talk out of both sides of your mouth.

            • Jen says:

              Could you, please, be an adult and take out phrases like “you suck” from your posts?

              I’m not even going to address your response that missed all the points.

            • Woody says:

              I’ll continue to use language that’s not uncommon in New York. Especially when it comes to debunking your crazy theories and neurotic accusations.

    3. dannyboy says:

      “I got caught in a stampede of people just trying to get the fuck out. And I couldn’t move from where I was. People trampling over each other.”

      “Stampedes” and “trampling”…nice

      • Josh P. says:

        Stampedes are caused by dangerous spaces, not the morality of people. When people try to fit through a space that is too small, the pressures build and create extremely unsafe conditions. It’s physics. This New Yorker article does a good job of explaining why blaming the victims in these situations make us all less safe. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/02/07/crush-point/amp

        • dannyboy says:

          “People were falling on the stairs and people,were climbing over them.” – Danielle Stouck, or reread MQue says’ comment “I was one of the people being trampled on due to helping others get up. People should be ashamed of themselves running people over…”

          I know that you’d like to normalized this behavior, but watch the last scene from “Day of the Locusts” before justifying this selfish behavior.

    4. Scott says:

      I guess Men in Black 2 had it wrong. New Yorkers aren’t very blasé at all.

    5. Mark Moore says:

      Weird. I got off an uptown 2 or 3 train at that station about 6:00 PM that day and there was no sign of any disturbance at all.

    6. MQue says:

      I was one of the people being trampled on due to helping others get up. People should be ashamed of themselves running people over. I’m sorry but I wanted to get out as well but no way would I allow seeing women and men on the ground not being helped up. In return i have bruised ribs.

      • Jen says:

        Thank you for your actions and thinking about people’s lives.
        Shame on those who didn’t think twice to step on other people to get out faster. I experienced similar, not to the same degree of course, when my son was infant and in a stroller. No fire or rush, People pushed the stroller out of their way on subway, complained about the mere fact that the stroller was on subway and amazingly at times find support in some commuters who would proclaim “If you can afford to have a child, you can afford to take a taxi”.

        So the behavior described doesn’t surprise me. Some commuters are like that.

      • dannyboy says:

        I have great sympathy for how you feel. On 9/11 the building I worked was severely damaged. Evacuating north was a very disappointing sight. I guess that some people respond to tragedy by trying to get others out of their way. Heartbreaking.

    7. Solution Man says:

      Solution: Close every other station on the 1, 2, and 3 for six months to install handrails.

    8. Lauren says:

      This MTA needs a complete AUDIT – don’t know what we are paying for except track fires – delays and now THIS!?

      We should not see any more hikes until this dept is completely overhauled – Hello Mr. Mayor – don’t say it’s not the city’s responsibility – Upstate won’t care – you need to act!

    9. Davidon98th says:

      The MTA spends millions on turnstiles that prevent fare cheats but also make secure evacuation impossible. They spend millions on “see something say something” security theater, but little on actual security. Designing platforms and exits so that people can actually evacuate could be a priority — and it is not.

    10. UpperWest Hazel says:

      Nattie, thanks for your detailed description of this horrific event. Details like, the fire was the size of the tunnel, and coming toward the cars.I tried to imagine how I would deal with it—and hope I never find out.

    11. R Cherney says:

      Another example of New Yorkers not being the ones you want to be with in an emergency and NYC transport services having no plans in an emergency. Worst system in any major city in the US.

      • Christina says:

        Ummm…. Aren’t too many cities in U.S. you can travel on 245 miles of track for $2.75! If any at all! So, NO! It’s NOT the WORST system in any U.S. major city!

    12. Scott says:

      Need more info as to why this happened. I saw a plume of fire shoot out from under the street through a steel grate on 102nd St. right around the time this happened. Don’t know if it’s related, but Con Ed had to come by, shut the street and fix it. The culprit appears to be the ridiculous use of road salt on our streets and sidewalks, which sluices down to the pipes and wires and eats through everything. We need better alternatives when a couple inches of snow hits. I see people dumping an entire bag of salt on a sidewalk when there’s just a dusting of snow. This should be illegal.

      • Jen says:

        Woody wouldn’t like you asking for more info. According to him it is “neurotics” and justifies using foul language which is “uncommon in New York”.

        Woody’s post earlier in the thread made me laugh really hard. Dismissinf people who experinced the situation, not questions MTA rep response , and attacking people very rudely because all they want more info from MTA?

        • Woody says:

          You just keep digging yourself a bigger hole of obtuseness. Instead of just saying that you would like more info and leaving at that, you leapt to making your own conclusion that the MTA was lying to you. So you didn’t really have a need for more info if you had already prejudged the situation. That’s makes you neurotically anxious and not genuine.

          And yes, I usually discount what most panic-stricken observers say in these types of situations because they’re typically prone to exaggeration and convoluted facts. It seems that’s what happened in this situation because the ‘great ball of fire rolling toward the platform’ was nothing more than an arced cable. If you’re not familiar with electrical fires, inform yourself (like Scott) before making wild assumptions.

          If you think the phrase “you suck at” is foul language and are so offended by it, then you’re obviously dealing with some other generational challenges that hint at a very complex personality. You’re the type that just waits to be offended by the slightest source of friction.

      • Christina says:

        To be fair… We were supposed to get about a foot of snow, but obviously didn’t! People throwing “whole bags” of salt was in preparation for the snow that never arrived!If they hadn’t put salt down and we did get the amount of snow predicted, people would have been up in arms about that!

        • Scott says:

          I hate to belabor this point, but rock salt is not an appropriate remedy for snow. Shoveling is the appropriate remedy. But too many building owners think otherwise, either out of ignorance or laziness.

    13. Lynn Shardlow says:

      Just read this..
      So sorry you had to experience this.
      What a horrific event.
      Hope no one was injured and no lasting mental trauma.
      No ….

      My best thoughts and well wishes to all.