At 5:45 pm an MTA train left Grand Central Terminal, headed north on the Harlem Line. It was almost 6:30 pm when that train hit a Jeep Cherokee that was sitting on the tracks at a crossing on Commerce Street in Valhalla, NY.
Once the train struck the Jeep, it was pushed approximately ten car lengths down the track. As the train grinded to a halt, the electrified third rail became dislodged and pierced the floor of the first car of the train. The Jeep caught on fire, and the cabin of the first train car was filled with smoke.
NY Gov. Cuomo arrived on the scene Tuesday night, and described the accident as “a truly ugly and brutal sight.”
An ongoing investigation is underway to determine exactly what caused the accident. It has been reported that the Jeep was stopped on the tracks, the driver exited the vehicle, and went around back. She then got back into the car and attempted to move forward, but she was stuck. It is unclear at this time if the crossing gate arm had come down prior to the accident or not.
Officials have the death toll listed at seven people as of late Tuesday night. A dozen people, listed as seriously injured, were taken to two local hospitals. 11 people went to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, and one person was taken to Phelps Memorial Hospital Center in Sleepy Hollow. The locomotive engineer was injured, but he is still alive.
Once Metro-North employees were able to shut down the third rail, they began evacuating the 800 to 850 people that were on the train at the time of the accident. The rest of their commute was completed via buses provided by MTA.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said, “the investigation has begun. The National Transportation Safety Board has been called, they are on their way from Washington to investigate this.”
He also commented, “apparently, this is not definitive, but the word is that the car tried to blow through the red light at the tracks and get around the gate and was hit.”
Metro-North has had its share of problems lately with two train derailments in the last few weeks. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said of the bi-state commuter rail line, “Whatever the cause is found out to be, the focus has to be on improving safety and reliability on this railroad.”
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|Joel L. Levine
Levine And Wiss, PLLC
|Scott L. Wiss
Levine And Wiss, PLLC