For many aboard doomed New Jersey Transit train 1614, the first hint of trouble Thursday came seconds before the crash.
Commuter Massimo Marcoccia was sitting in a vestibule and talking to a pal when he noticed that the train was coming into the Hoboken, New Jersey, station fast — and not braking.
“I looked at my friend and told him, ‘Hey, we’re really coming in,'” Marcoccia told NBC News.
Seconds later, there was an “explosive” crash.
Marcoccia, 44, who lives in New Milford, New Jersey, said the impact threw him against a wall and knocked the wind out of him.
“The people who got up early, they went flying,” said Marcoccia, his hands and legs still shaking. “One guy went down hard. I saw his head get injured.”
First responders were on the scene in no time, Marcoccia said. But when he got off the train, he saw commuters splattered with blood wandering about in a daze. Others, apparently injured, lay moaning on the platform.
Marcoccia, who was heading to his Bank of America job in downtown Manhattan, said he saw one man with blood all over his head. Then he saw another person being covered up and could not be certain if that person was alive or dead.
Walking from the wreckage, Marcoccia said he realized the train had jumped a protective pylon and smashed through a stationery store. When rescue workers asked him if he needed help, he told them he just needed to sit down, he added.
Other survivors gave similar terrifying accounts in interviews with NBC News reporters at the scene.
“The car never de-accelerated,” said another crash survivor, Ross Bauer, 32, of Hackensack, New Jersey. “We got a big jolt” that was followed by “a loud explosion noise.”
“The lights went out in the car and everyone was stunned for a second,” he added. “At first there were some screams when it first happened. People were visibly shaken up.”
Bauer, a systems engineer who also works in Manhattan, said when he got off the train he saw dozens of other riders milling about, not certain where to go. “One gentleman I saw sitting down, his entire face and hands were bloodied,” he said.
Jamie Weatherhead-Saul, who was riding in the first car, said “the train just felt like it never stopped.”
“It didn’t slow down, it didn’t, it didn’t brake,” she said, still visibly shaken. “The lights shut off and people started yelling.”
One woman, Weatherhead-Saul said, was thrown so hard her legs got caught between a set of doors. She said she and others pulled her to safety with the help of man who “had a slash in his forehead but hadn’t known he was bleeding.”
Bhagyesh Shaw, who was standing in the back of the second train car, told NBC News they hit a couple of pillars, causing the roof to collapse on the train.
“It was for a couple seconds, but it felt like an eternity,” Shaw said.
“I saw a woman pinned under the concrete,” he said. “A lot of people were bleeding, one guy was crying.”
Survivor Mike Scelzo, 49, of Oradell, New Jersey, said in the aftermath of the crash the compartment was filled with what he first thought was smoke.
“Everything was dusty and dirty” and a few people started screaming and crying, he said. “It was more screams of shock and, you know, basically we pulled an emergency window open and started climbing out.”
A New Jersey Transit construction worker at the scene who declined to give his name said the train was on track 5 and that it slammed through the barrier blocks and rode up onto the platform before it was finally stopped by the wall separating the station from the waiting area and ticket booths.
“Everything in its path, it just took out,” he said.
Another construction worker, Charles Frazier, said he was taking a break and paying for his coffee and bagel when the train crashed and he immediately rushed over to help.
“I saw people trying to climb out the windows, so we tried to help but there really wasn’t much we could do,” he told NBC News’ Brian Williams. “One guy was telling them to stay on the train because of live wires and electric.”
But the trapped passengers wanted off the train. “They popped the emergency windows,” he said.
Mark Cardona, who watched the crash from a platform, said the train just plowed into the station. “I don’t know what happened but this train was moving as if Hoboken station did not exist,” he said.
Another witness, Tom Spina, said he was in the customer service office when he heard “this sort of crackling noise.”
“The lights flickered a little bit in the office and the next thing you know there was a very loud bang,” he told NBC News. “I ran out of the office, didn’t know what was going on, and saw folks running away from where the train had come through the terminal and didn’t stop.”
“The roof had collapsed down on top of a portion of a train and down towards the floor hanging,” he said.
Fearing the roof would completely fall apart and land on the survivors, Spina said he began waving them over “towards me.” He said he steered them towards a waiting room.
“It appeared to me it was folks in shock and some folks you know, they were bleeding from various areas of their head and face,” he said.