Fans collapse at overcrowded station

Updated: February 3, 2014, 8:18 PM ET
By Jane McManus | ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Mass Transit Super Bowl lived up to its name on Super Bowl Sunday, with a record 27,800 riders transported to MetLife Stadium via New Jersey Transit trains as of 5:56 p.m.

The turnout was felt at Secaucus Junction, where several people were said to have collapsed while waiting in long lines. Emergency medical workers were forced to push their way through the overheated crowd to treat people at the New Jersey train station, it was earlier reported.

[+] EnlargeBenjamin Lowy for ESPN
Benjamin Lowy for ESPNAccording to witnesses, several people collapsed at the overcrowded Secaucus Junction train station while waiting in long lines to get to the Super Bowl.

New Jersey Transit spokesperson John Durso Jr. said Monday that reports of collapsing passengers were exaggerated, no calls for medical attention were made, and no police reports were filed.

The long lines caused a standstill in front of airport-style security machines that could not handle the crowd volume. People were squeezed together in an enclosed stairwell.

"There was an earlier issue with a number of trains which arrived at the same time that screening commenced and that delayed passengers from deboarding at the station," William J. Smith, senior public information officer for NJT, said in an email.

At no points were the screening procedures waived at the station for those passengers going to the stadium, said Smith, who noted the previous record for riders in a single day was 22,000 for a U2 concert in 2009.

Following the game, a 43-8 Seahawks victory, the almost 28,000 fans who took the train to MetLife Stadium were too much for the train system to handle. Several fans told ESPN.com it took them over 2 hours to get a on a train and a large crowd was seen gathering outside the station.

The New York/New Jersey Super Bowl Host Committee made announcements on the public address system in the stadium and also via Twitter asking fans to wait before coming to the stadium.

Smith said that as of midnight, the process of returning fans to the Secaucus Junction was still ongoing.

"Trains are being loaded at the stadium as quickly as is safely possible," Smith said, "and customers are being directed to waiting trains at Secaucus to continue on to their final destination, be it New York City or elsewhere in New Jersey."

A NJT spokesperson said 20 buses were used to take 1,112 would-be train riders back to Port Authority in Manhattan after the game.

At 1:30 in the afternoon, a half-hour before fans would be let into the MetLife Stadium security perimeter, ESPNNewYork.com's Matt Ehalt encountered lines at the Secaucus juncture.

"Packed house right now," Ehalt said, although the trip to the stadium was short once he got onto the train.

Smith said that once the bottleneck began, a contingency plan for a larger number of riders kicked in.

Tamara Amala took the New Jersey Transit train through Secaucus later in the afternoon and said she arrived to a little bit of a holdup at 3 p.m., but she was on a train and through MetLife security by 4 p.m. Amala said she was screened twice, once at the station and again at MetLife.

"For $10, I'd much rather take the train," Amala said.

Minaz Jamal of North Carolina had a similarly positive experience on the train. He said it was the easy part, and later encountered a one-hour delay in the security line into the stadium itself.

Aside from the early delay through Seacaucus, most Super Bowl visitors had a good experience getting to the stadium, whether through train, Fan Express bus or car. Two people who used a bus service chartered through StubHub.com appeared the happiest.

"It was smooth sailing all the way," said Bob Holmwood of Denver.

A Giants fan and frequent guest at MetLife, Brett Sinofsky said getting to the game wasn't that much different than during a regular-season game.

"Compared to a normal game-day experience, it's a little more hectic, a little more security." Sinofsky said.

Information from ESPNNewYork.com contributor Matt Ehalt and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jane McManus has covered New York sports since 1998 and began covering football just before Brett Favre's stint with the Jets. Her work has appeared in Newsday, USA Today, The Journal News and The New York Times. Follow Jane on Twitter.

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