A JFK shuttle train that had just undergone preventive maintenance lost two doors just before picking up its first passengers yesterday, sources said.
As the AirTrain pulled into the Lefferts Boulevard stop at 3:30 a.m., the two doors swung off their hinges. One careened onto the tracks and the other jammed into the platform.
"This is very troubling," said an airport source. "[Had] it happened when the train was crowded, people would have fallen out -- and they'd now be dead."
No one was aboard the computerized two-car shuttle -- which carries no conductor or motorman.
One of the broken doors, affixed to the outside of the cars, became "embedded into the concrete platform like a knife into a birthday cake," said a source.
An alarm sounded, but the train -- minus the two doors -- barreled on to the Howard Beach station, sources said.
Once there, it was taken out of service -- but staff didn't notify Port Authority officials until 6 a.m., sources said.
The potential tragedy -- and what caused it -- was under investigation last night, prompting one source to say, "They're reviewing it to see why it occurred, but all indications are that there was a problem in the maintenance yard."
A person familiar with the AirTrain's operations said that when trains are put back into service, they typically go through a computerized safety-system checklist.
"The doors may not have been attached properly," that source said. "The question is: Why wasn't it detected ahead of time?"
A PA spokeswoman confirmed that an investigation was under way.
In September 2002, Kelvin DeBourgh, a 23-year-old electrician testing the AirTrain prior to its debut, was killed when one of the cars derailed -- pinning him beneath 16,000 pounds of concrete.