A Ridgefield, Connecticut, man who was across the street from explosions during the Boston Marathon bombing has another dramatic survival story to tell after escaping a burning Metro-North train that crashed in Valhalla, New York on Tuesday.
Fred Buonocore has a routine on his commute to work in New York. He rides the back car there every day and the front car, or the quiet car, on the way home. However, on Tuesday, he broke his tradition, running to catch the train and hurrying into a middle car before the doors closed.
About halfway through his ride home, the 5:44 p.m. train on the Harlem line hit an SUV on the tracks, killing the driver and five train passengers who were sitting in the front car.
"There was a bump, and then the train came to a stop, and everything went silent," Buonocore recalled. "Several people were yelling, 'You have to move back, everyone walk back."
Chaos and confusion began to set in.
"Whatever that emotion is that leads to panic was starting to bubble up in the car," Buonocore said.
Then there was an explosion.
"Not like a massive explosion, but like a boom toward the front of the train. A number of people, myself included, said we just need to get off the train," he said.
Buonocore grabbed the emergency lever to open the door. He has cuts on his hands from the glass that he reached through to grab that lever and open the main doors to the car. He jumped out into the snow as another small explosion came from the front. Buonocore quickly started helping others off the train.
"Nobody told us to do that, it just seemed like that's what needed to happen," he said.
As passengers made their way around the train, they saw the destruction at the front.
"You just see the flames coming up and the smoke coming up," Buonocore described.
Buonocore realized he could have been a passenger in that front train car.
"You have the same routine. Whether it makes sense or not. I sit in the last car every day on the way to work. I sit in the first car every day on the way home," said Buonocore.
From inside the train, they had no idea just how bad the situation really was. When they arrived at the triage center the passengers began to talk.
"To come to the realization that people in the train actually died was really a frightening concept," Buonocore said, noting that usually it's only those in the car who are hurt or killed in this type of situation.
Buonocore has been through tragedy before. He was at the Boston Marathon, standing across the street, when the bombs went off, but was not injured. Now he says he appreciates every day he has with his family.
"Everyone just needs to take away the message, don't take things for granted, don't take any given day or people for granted," Buonocore said, tearing up.
As he waited to learn the identities of the victims, Buonocore said he probably knew two-thirds of them, not by name, but by face, because he sat in that front car on the way home from work every day.
One of the victims killed happened to live in Danbury, a mere nine miles away from Buonocore's Ridgefield home.
Aditya Tomar, 41, of Danbury, was one of the people killed in the crash, according to Danbury mayor Mark Boughton.
While Buonocore worked from home in Ridgefield on Wednesday, he said that he doesn't plan to stop his routine of sitting in the front car when he goes back to work on Thursday.