The town deferred taking action or making the study public until the NTSB released its report on the crash, which recommended closing the crossing. "[13]:71–72, The dissenting member, Weener, dismissed speculation as to Brody's motives. By the time the firefighters reached the scene, they said later, the first car was almost fully engulfed and thus there was little they could do to help evacuate it; most of the passengers had already managed to do so on their own by either going out the front door or removing the windows, primarily with tools provided but in some instances forcibly. One woman from Thornwood, a hamlet of Mount Pleasant just north of the accident site, drew applause at a later meeting when she said she had learned how to handle grade crossings during her high school driver's education classes. he said. It found many of them unlikely or insufficient explanations for her action. Seven people were killed when a Metro-North commuter train struck a stalled SUV on the tracks with the gates down in the Westchester County community of Valhalla, Gov. [25], The NTSB team theorized that the fire aboard the train might have been caused by gasoline from the SUV, ignited by a spark from the third rail, which had pierced the car's fuel tank,[13]:53–54 and the force of impact. [14] Damage was estimated at $3.7 million. After failed efforts to break the door open, "[a] number of us started smelling fumes from the car, the fuel, and we said, 'You know what, we need to get out. And all the seats seemed to be like collapsing", one passenger in the lead car recalled in an NTSB interview. One local shopkeeper, a 30-year resident, told The New York Times that she would never ride the front car of any train, ever. [2] It is also the deadliest crash in Metro-North's history[1] and was the second Metro-North train incident to result in passenger fatalities, after the derailment 14 months earlier on the railroad's Hudson Line near Spuyten Duyvil that killed four.[38]. [13]:71–72, Dinh-Zarr, in her statement, defended the NTSB's work in investigating the accident and its conclusions. The Brodys' attorney alleged that money allocated for a 2009 improvement that would have brought the crossing to federal standards was never spent. [64] Around the crash's fourth anniversary, The Journal News reported that lawyers for injured passengers and families of the dead were focusing on the third rail's failure to break up as a contributing cause. In today’s post we’ll take a deeper look at the Commerce Street crossing and put its accident history in context of rail crossings nationwide. Then the car moved forward, 30 seconds after the gate had come down on her car, investigators determined later. But he pointed out that among the unknowns were whether Brody knew the impact to her car was from the descending barrier—she could have just as easily thought it could have been Hope's vehicle, he observed, and gone out to check—and whether she had adequate time and space to back up into the space Hope created. The driver of the SUV exited to look at the back of the SUV, then got back in the SUV, drove forward (east) and was struck by the train. In Chappaqua, where the train was to make its first stop, the effect was pronounced, as three of the victims had connections to the hamlet. "How safe is that crossing—for this to happen again?" [61] The widow of victim Robert Dirks filed a negligence lawsuit naming the town, county and Metro North, as well as Smalls the engineer as defendants, claiming Smalls could have stopped the train earlier. "[We] conclude that after the grade crossing activated, the driver's attention was most likely diverted to the crossing gate arm striking her vehicle, and she was unaware of the proximity of the approaching train. They did not experience sufficient stress to break until the rail sections had already entered the car. Video public service announcements ran on screens in larger stations served by MTA trains, including Grand Central Terminal, Penn Station and Fulton Center. "Many of these communities only exist because people are able to travel into the city for work and fun and to see family," said The Rev. [13]:56–57, This did not appear to have contributed to the accident, as Smalls had said there was nothing in front of her and she could easily have cleared the tracks had she become aware sooner of the oncoming train. [13]:58–61, The campaign was also spread electronically. [13] Alan, who had once worked as a conductor in his native South Africa,[16] did not believe she was familiar with the area through which she was driving,[13]:15–17 or that she was familiar with grade crossings. However, said Sumwalt, "the big question everyone wants to know is: Why was this vehicle in the crossing?" [13]:36, The third rail sections lifted up and punctured the floor of the first car, with the first short segment remaining on the floor while later ones, with one exception that came through a different hole, accumulated atop the seats in the center of the compartment. The MTA police worked with local law enforcement to create a Right of Way Task Force. Six people died and 12 were injured in a massive fireball that erupted when a packed Metro-North train smashed into an SUV that was sitting on the tracks in Westchester County Tuesday night. [13]:37–38, Nevertheless, investigators wanted to know whether any of the car's interior finishes, or the materials introduced into the interior by the collision, might have contributed to the fire. A crew of a hundred cleared the vehicles, using a high-rail crane to remove the SUV. [13]:73–75, "It is as important or, perhaps more important, to ask how the SUV ended up within the crossing gates", Weener also wrote, addressing a number of other issues he felt the board should have considered. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) said that the gates at the railway crossing came down on top of the car, which was stopped on the tracks. "I remember hoping and praying it wasn't anyone I knew. The train, traveling at 51 miles per hour (82 km/h), struck the SUV on its passenger side[13]:31–32 at 6:26 p.m.[13]:15–17, "There was a terrible crunching sound, and just like that, the car was gone," Hope said. Gwyneth MacKenzie Murphy, the interim pastor at Nadol's Church of St. Mary the Virgin. "My position is, when I'm told that something is dangerous and we haven't done anything about it, what is my liability?" The movement resulted in damage to the electrified 3rd rail. Drivers heading in both directions left the parkway, seeking alternate routes back to it on local surface roads. The crash is the deadliest in Metro-North's history,[1] and at the time the deadliest rail accident in the United States since the June 2009 Washington Metro train collision, which killed nine passengers and injured 80.[2][a]. The names of the fatalities have not been released to news. "The opening of the docket is part of the ongoing investigation into the crash that fatally injured six and injured more than a dozen," wrote NTSB officials in a statement. The data also showed proper horn operation on the approach to the crossing. "[13]:73–75, Weener agreed that the evidence suggested Brody had "likely lost situational awareness" between when she saw the marking signs and when she reached the tracks. She may well have known she was near the tracks and left the ML350 to see where she was in relation to them, since it had blind spots at the front and rear, Weener added. It continues northwest through the cemetery for a quarter-mile (400 m), then turns north again down a slight rise back over another grade crossing, just north of a brick electrical substation, to a signal-controlled intersection with the parkway. [57] Two Valhalla fire commissioners also expressed concern that changes to the local roads would be unable to accommodate large fire trucks. Like Sumwalt, she said, Brody's death made it impossible to determine why she drove onto the tracks. Metro-North service resumed the next morning, with delays of 15 minutes for trains to slow down at the accident site. The train was occupied by 2 crew members and approximately 650 passengers at the time of the accident. "It's way too early to be guessing about what could have or couldn't have made a difference," said a spokesman for the New York State Department of Transportation. After an unusually long delay for such investigations that it declined to explain, the board's 2017 final report found no defects with the vehicles, the crossing signage and associated traffic signal preemption, or the train engineer's performance. [e] Hope says Brody's SUV was in front of the gate as it descended, but not on the tracks. "[59], Similar objections came from Valhalla residents who would be affected by closing the Cleveland street crossing, noting the lack of any accidents there. "This accident demonstrated that Metro-North's third rail assembly catastrophically compromised a passenger railcar with fatal consequences," the report concluded. He instead saw Brody get out and walk to the rear, apparently trying to free it. [12], The parkway was still closed after 6 p.m.,[13] when a 2011 Mercedes-Benz ML350 SUV driven by Ellen Schaeffer Brody, 49, of Edgemont, went north on Commerce back towards the parkway. [37], At that point in 2015, it was the deadliest passenger train crash in the United States since the 2009 Washington Metro train collision, which killed nine people and injured 80 others. On February 3, 2015, at about 6:26 pm eastern standard time, in Valhalla, New York, northbound Metro-North (MN) passenger train 659 consisting of eight electrically powered M-7 railcars, struck a 2011 Mercedes Benz ML350 sports utility vehicle (SUV) at the Commerce Street grade crossing on the Harlem line, resulting in a fire to the SUV and lead railcar (MN 4333). "So this has hit us at a place that is just integral to our existence, and therefore in a place where we are very, very vulnerable. The train and SUV came to rest about 665 feet from the point of collision. The engineer initiated his emergency brake about 230 feet before the collision after describing what he characterized as a vehicle partially fouling the crossing. [5] The next such crossing was Commerce Street, a lightly traveled local road to the north that intersects the tracks diagonally. He told investigators later that during the call he gave her directions to the Scarsdale meeting;[c] other than complaining about a cable bill they both felt was too high, there was nothing out of the ordinary about the conversation. But now New York crash officials confirm that the death toll has risen to six persons. Investigative reporter Tom Zambito discusses the Valhalla train crossing accident and pending lawsuits as the one year anniversary of the incident approaches. It added to its website a page developed in conjunction with Operation Lifesaver (OLI), an organization that works to promote rail safety among the public, particularly at grade crossings. Skip to main content. The Valhalla, […] [36] Commerce Street reopened to car traffic on the afternoon of February 5. [13]:71–72 A week after the report was released, a third member, Earl Weener, filed a dissenting statement. [23], Deadliest accident in history of New York's Metro-North Railroad, NTSB investigators survey the vehicles involved in the accident, Other transportation accidents with similar elements, A little more than three months later it was overtaken by the, The line, from Grand Central Terminal to Southeast station, is, In 2016, the spouse agreed in a newspaper interview that she would have had to have driven over the Lakeview Avenue grade crossing to make the turn up Commerce Street and the accident site.". MTA officials say the deadly accident happened just north of the crossing at Commerce Street around 10:15 p.m. Sources tell News 12 the victim was a young man. Get the latest news and breaking news reports on train accidents in your local area, the U.S. and worldwide on the New York Post. [16] Behind her was a vehicle driven by Rick Hope of Yorktown Heights, returning home from his job in White Plains. [22][27], The Valhalla volunteer fire department and ambulance corps responded; injured passengers were taken to nearby Westchester Medical Center (WMC). "Disappeared. "If someone isn't familiar with one of these systems, they could do exactly the wrong thing in an emergency," said the magazine's director of auto testing, Jake Fisher, who admitted to having made that mistake more than once. [13]:58–61, Enforcement efforts supplemented the education and public outreach. [22] Nine surviving passengers were taken to WMC, with one in very serious condition. During his interview with investigators, Metro-North's power director told them he believed the third rails were designed to break up in accidents and fail to the side, away from the train,[13]:51–53 since they had done so during the 1984 single-fatality accident at that same crossing. The accident seemed to him almost to be something from the works of writer John Cheever, who lived in nearby Briarcliff Manor and set much of his fiction amid the suburbs, featuring commuters as his characters: "[He] might have conjured the haunting details of the Harlem Line crash: the lead-footed irony of 'Valhalla,' the survivors wandering through the cemetery to safety. [13][17] Unable to continue south on the Taconic at Lakeview, she turned west, then north up Commerce Street, towards the intersection she had previously passed. He had been an engineer for nine months. [16] It could not be determined if she had the phone on speaker, which would have allowed her to keep both hands on the wheel, but according to Alan, the ML350 was equipped with software that automatically detected the phone if it was in the vehicle and put it on speaker. Reports, Details of Fatal Valhalla Train Crash Released by NTSB - White Plains, NY - The 1,100-document docket is available for viewing online. [50], "This has never happened before, and this is a rare configuration of a third rail,"[f] U.S. [13]:58–61, In September 2016, it was announced that the Commerce Street crossing, where the accident occurred, would be one of 43 MTA-operated railroad crossings to get closed-circuit television upgrades, paid for by a $1.9 million grant from the FRA. None of the passengers had soot in their airways. The crash occurred after traffic on the adjacent Taconic State Parkway had been detoured onto local roads following a car accident that closed the road in one direction. The driver of the SUV was also fatally injured. [21] In the cab, Smalls saw the ML350 completely block the tracks when the train was one car length, approximately 85 feet (26 m) away, and braced for impact. [48] They planned to stay for a week, collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses. [30][1][31] A police helicopter with thermal imaging equipment scanned the nearby Kensico Cemetery in search of survivors who might have wandered away from the scene and collapsed into the snow, but found none. Had she done so, it might have provided additional warning that a grade crossing was nearby. ", "Driver and engineer in Metro-North crash saw horror ahead but it was too late to avert doom", "Mother of 3 was driver who caused deadly Metro-North crash", "Preliminary Report: Highway-Railroad Grade Crossing Collision", "Cuomo says death toll in commuter train accident revised to six", "7 Dead after Metro-North train collides with car", "NTSB: It's a mystery why SUV was on tracks before fatal Metro-North crash", "Museum Curator, Jewelry Store Worker, Finance Exec Among 6 Victims in Deadly Metro-North Crash", "6 Die When Packed Metro-North Train Hits Car on Tracks, Sparking Fiery Crash: Officials", "Metro-North Train Crashes into Vehicle in Valhalla, N.Y.", "Metro-North's Overnight Repair Job Completed By 100-Member Crew", "Traffic Returns To Commerce Street Crossing After Fatal Accident", "6 dead, 12 injured after Metro-North train hits SUV in Westchester", "A life begun in Bangkok ends in fiery New York train wreck", "Aditya Tomar, JPMorgan Technology Executive, Dies at 41", "Where Metro-North Railroad Fuels Life, and Takes It", "NTSB Launches Go-Team to Metro North Accident in Westchester County, N.Y.", "Experts describe how SUV and train got snagged by rail", "1 person dead after being hit by train in Valhalla", "Can unfamiliarity with a shifter-gear lever cause a tragedy? "The docket, which contains more than 1,100 documents, will not include analysis, but will include interview summaries, photographs, and factual reports. He also said he and his coworkers often complained about how quickly the train came after the gates went down, gates which had been installed after a 1984 crash killed a van driver. VALHALLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Officials said six people were killed Tuesday evening, when a Metro-North train struck a car and caught fire during the evening rush in Valhalla. A Metro-North train that had departed from the busy Grand Central Station in Manhattan at 5:45 in the evening on Tuesday rammed into a car on the tracks in Valhalla, a suburb of New York City. NYSDOT also directed its regions to ensure that every other such signal in the state was in compliance with the MUTCD requirement. "[13]:73–75, Since the accident, the town of Mount Pleasant and the MTA have responded to some of the issues discussed in the NTSB report. Shortly afterwards she apparently reached the site of the road accident at the Lakeview intersection and took the detour for reasons unknown. The former lost power within eight seconds of the collision. Dirks lived there, Brody worked there and Nadol was a member of a local Episcopal church. [49], Investigators said they were particularly interested in one of the crash's unusual aspects. The weather at the time of the accident was reported 20˚F and with very light wind, clear skies, and good visibility. [50], Another unusual aspect was the configuration of the third rail. Threats Of Violence Heighten Inauguration Security — And Anxiety. [51][g], While the crossing had undergone upgrades in recent years, including brighter lights and an additional sign warning passing drivers not to stop on the tracks, in 2009 another upgrade, which would have added a sign with flashing lights 100–200 feet (30–61 m) up the road west of the tracks was not installed. [13]:35 But in this case, with only two exceptions, the third rail's 6-foot (2 m) sections had largely remained joined in larger sections averaging 39 feet (12 m) in length, weighing a ton (800 kg) each, as they accumulated in the first and second cars. While none of the third rail components showed any sign of electrical arcing, there was some localized burn damage on some segments. "[49], Some area residents suggested the crossing itself was the problem. "[47], On the night of the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) opened an investigation into the accident, and dispatched a go-team to the site. The data also showed one long horn blast upon initiation of the emergency brake. [57] It found that the Commerce Street crossing met many of the Federal Highway Administration's criteria for closure: high passenger train volume and speed, low road traffic volume, multiple tracks, a mere 82 feet (25 m) to a traffic signal, a poor approach angle (62º), poor visibility due to the substation, and the two fatal accidents in its history. She took medication for her hypothyroidism, which could have left her fatigued if she had missed a dose, but her husband said that did not appear to have happened. [13]:53–54 In fact none of the five deaths on the train were a result of the fire; no soot was found in those passengers' airways. The Valhalla station is a commuter rail stop on the Metro-North Railroad's Harlem Line, located in Valhalla, New York.Trains leave or arrive approximately every 20 minutes during peak periods, hourly otherwise, to Mount Kisco, Southeast or Grand Central Terminal.It is 25.5 miles (41.0 km) from Grand Central Terminal and travel time there is approximately 41 minutes. Andrew Burton/Getty Images Show More Show Less 25 of 26 Personnel from various agencies work the scene of a deadly commuter train accident in Valhalla, N.Y., Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. The parties to the investigation include Metro-North Railroad, the Federal Railroad Administration, the Association of Commuter Rail Employees, the Town of Mount Pleasant, and the New York Public Transportation Safety Board. "People died, but you can't close crossings that have been working perfectly fine since I've been in this town for 52 years. The 3rd rail detached, pierced the SUV, entering the first railcar in two locations from the underside at the aft end of the left side passenger doorway. This could not have occurred since in New York bells are only required for pedestrian crossings, and as Commerce Street is not considered one its signals do not have bells. The NTSB believed that this had prevented additional deaths and injuries among them. While prior to purchasing the used[16] ML350 two months earlier she had driven a Honda with a shifter in the more common position between the front seats, her husband told the NTSB that she had not told him of any problems using the column-mounted shifter, which he had also used when driving her car and found easy to get used to. They then obtained the rail's design specifications from the manufacturer and, based on Metro-North's own maintenance diagrams of how those rail sections were to be joined, developed a computer simulation using finite element modeling to determine how the rail might react to loads and stresses similar to those it would likely have experienced during the accident, both horizontally and vertically. "[19], In the train's front car, Chris Gross was suddenly thrown out of his seat. Attorneys for the surviving passengers and the families of the dead accused the MTA of "buy[ing] his silence". that victim's sister asked the newspaper. [19], The crossing gate struck the top of Brody's SUV before sliding down its rear and becoming stuck. [13]:20[d], The call was dropped at 6:19; Alan was not sure if it was because his phone or his wife's had lost power. [55], The original question, why Brody had driven forward into the path of the train and thus made the accident inevitable, could not be answered conclusively due to her death. He soon realized it was from a vehicle fouling the tracks, and immediately hit the air brakes and sounded the horn, earlier than he would have been required to take the latter action if the tracks appeared clear, in the hope that the vehicle would hear it and leave since he knew he could not stop the train in time. Home; Coronavirus Updates; 2020 Election Results; Elections; Nation; World; Politics [13]:43–44, Three of the four members of the NTSB filed individual statements to go with the report. [13]:54–55 Nevertheless, in May 2015, the state Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) adjusted the preemptions at the scene to give proper precedence to the crossing circuit when activated and extended the green signal for traffic on Commerce from the existing 2–10-second range, to 29 seconds, followed by four seconds of yellow, to allow even long vehicles like tractor trailers to clear the crossing. Flames were within a foot (30 cm) of his face; another passenger got the emergency exit open and pulled him out. All the deaths save one of the train passengers were attributed to blunt force trauma; that exception was due to burns and other injuries making it difficult to determine the cause. [63], In 2018 it was disclosed that Smalls had reached a confidential settlement of a legal claim he had made against the MTA; his attorney said the engineer had never returned to work, was no longer employed by Metro-North, and had post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the crash. 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