A firecracker was thrown into a packed subway train in Manhattan on Friday morning, sending New York City commuters into an absolute panic, with one woman injured in the stampede.
A video posted on Twitter showed passengers cramming against each other as they tried to evacuate the train through the one available exit door, with one woman telling another, “We’re all trying to get off.”
The NYPD confirmed officers responded to the incident at the 23rd Street station on Sixth Avenue at 9.30 a.m., and the investigation remains ongoing. Police have not yet identified or located the suspect.
One woman twisted her knee while fleeing the chaos and was taken to a local hospital, an NYPD spokesperson said.
John Treat, 26, told BuzzFeed News he boarded the last train carriage at 14th Street on his way to work and had just sat down when a loud bang sounded. The other end of the car began filling with smoke, he said, while the train continued to move between stations, leaving the main doors locked.
“Everyone starts freaking out and sprinting towards the door,” Treat, a lawyer, told BuzzFeed News. He added that he ran toward the one open door — which connected to the next carriage — but the small area was already teeming with people and he couldn’t get through.
“I thought it was a shooter and I thought, I’m going to die in this subway car, which is not a great way to start your morning,” he said.
“People were leaving bags and stuff on the floor, people were knocking each other over,” Treat said.
Another passenger, Leslie Bradshaw, posted on Twitted that “New Yorkers don’t stand around and wait to figure out what’s going on. They M-O-V-E.”
Bradshaw, 37, was riding the train uptown from her East Village home to undergo surgery to get her eggs retrieved as part of IVF when people swarmed into her carriage.
“I heard yelling and screaming and something in Spanish, and a wave of people were charging through the train,” she said.
She got up and joined the “big blob of humans,” running past abandoned shoes, a necklace, a laptop. She said she ran through probably four carriages.
“We were getting more people on each train we were running through,” she said. “People were screaming ‘get off the train, go go, move move,’ giving directions to the next group of people and jumping from car to car.”
She described it as chaos, with commuters screaming and completely unaware of what was going on.
“People were really pushing people through,” Bradshaw said. “It was a bottleneck of trying to get from car to car, humans not being thoughtful. It was everyone for their own selves.”
When she arrived at her doctor’s office to undergo surgery 40 minutes later, her heart rate was still elevated.
“A few people were knocked over and I felt awful for a service dog who was caught up in the stampede,” another train commuter, Randall Lotowycz, said in a statement he posted on Twitter. “I jumped onto a seat just to get out of the way of everyone.”
After about 10 seconds, Treat said that other people came running from the other end of the train where the bang occurred, saying it was a firecracker and not a bomb or gunshot.
One commuter, Amelia Vogler, posted a picture on Twitter showing what appears to be the residue from the firecracker, saying she heard “maniacal laughter” from the perpetrator.
Treat said nearly everyone from the affected carriage escaped to the second-to-last carriage, but that he remained once he realized it was a firecracker and the danger was over.
At the 23rd Street stop, the train was stopped and NYPD officers quickly arrived.
“People came back and grabbed their bags they had left on the floor,” Treat said. A lone AirPod was lying on the ground after the chaos, and “one guy came back in and grabbed the AirPod and got off the train.”
Treat said the fear of thinking he was going to die on the subway was short-lived but terrifying.
“It didn’t last long enough to be life-altering scary, more just like, a Friday morning,” he said.
Randall Lotowycz’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this post.