Five passengers aboard a Metro-North commuter train and the driver of an SUV were tragically killed Tuesday evening when the train collided with the black SUV, which had become stuck between the crossing gates in Valhalla. Fifteen other passengers were injured, some with serious burn injuries.
Federal investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are combing through evidence to determine how the crash occurred, gathering data from the train and crossing gate events recorders, as well as witness testimonies, medical records and highway conditions at the time of the collision.
The woman driving the SUV reportedly pulled onto the tracks at the Commerce Street crossing when the gates came down, trapping her vehicle. The woman was seen getting out of the car, attempting to lift the gate then returning to the car before the crash.
Upon impact, the gas tank in the SUV exploded, engulfing both the SUV and the first train car in flames. The SUV was pushed at least 10 car lengths down the track and forced the electrified third rail to lift and pierce the train.
Hundreds of passengers managed to escape from the smoking eight-car train where they were taken to a nearby rock-climbing gym for shelter, said authorities.
NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt said it may be a year before the agency can issue its final report on the train crash, but preliminary findings will be provided as they become available.
The legal team at Wingate, Russotti, Shaprio & Halperin, LLP extend our deepest condolences to those affected by this tragic incident.