The Most Horrific Subway Accidents in New York City History

The New York City subway is one of the oldest and busiest in the world. The subway is the life blood of the city. Millions of people use it every day and are able to safely commute to work or visit family and friends.

According to, the NYC subway serves Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island through MTA Staten Island Railway (SIR). In 2013, average weekday subway ridership was 5.5 million, the highest since 1950. Annual ridership was 1.708 billion, the highest since 1949.

Even though the majority of people ride the subway with ease, sometimes there are terrible accidents that take place that generate massive media attention due to injury and death.

Below are some of the most horrific subway accidents in New York City history.

1991 Union Square 

On August 28, 1991, a southbound No. 4 train carrying approximately 216 passengers derailed as it approaches Union Square station. The train accident killed 5 people and left more than 200 injured. The motorman, who was drunk and sleepy, ignored the railroad switch speed limit of 10 mph. Travelling at 40 mph, the train cars jumped into the air and crashed on top of each other. 

1928 Times Square 

Eighteen people died and more than a hundred were injured in the 2nd worst accident to take place on the New York City subway system. On August 24, 1928, a 10-car train carrying 1,800 passengers smashed its rear into the wall while leaving Times Square station. A hastily repaired faulty switch caused the ninth car to derail, hit the concrete wall and split in two. This also overturned the eighth car and the wreckage eventually caught fire. The authorities arrested the subway towerman for second degree manslaughter after learning that he was a clerk and not a trained towerman.

1918 Malbone Street

The most horrific accident in New York City’s subway history happened on November 1, 1918. An over speeding train, made up of 5 wood cars, derailed and smashed into the concrete partitions while approaching an S-curve at Malbone Street tunnel. Ninety-seven people lost their lives and 235 were injured. The management’s decision to deploy an inexperienced motorman to service the route was the cause of this tragedy. 

These disastrous events are truly unfortunate but the lessons learned from them has helped to improve the subway system today and revised operating procedures.