Valhalla Train Crash : Seven die after commuter train hits car in Westchester

Updated: February 4, 2015
Valhalla Train Crash : Seven die after commuter train hits car in Westchester

Valhalla – At least 7 people dead in Metro-North train crash, Railroad spokesman Aaron Donovan says the northbound train struck a Jeep Cherokee at a railroad crossing in Valhalla on Tuesday evening. The vehicle and the front rail car caught fire.

One passenger, 45-year-old Scott Miller, told the New York Times he was in the second carriage when he heard a bang and the smoking train screeched to a halt.

“People started screaming, ‘Run to the back of the train,’” he said.

“It was kind of crazy. You had firemen trying to bang open the doors. People were jumping out of the windows.”

Footage of the aftermath of the crash showed shocked residents pouring out of their homes in nearby roads as emergency services tried to tackle the huge blaze.

The driver of the black Jeep Cherokee and six people on the train were killed in the crash near the suburb of White Plains.

Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York, said the car was pushed 400 feet down the tracks before the blast blew the third rail, which carries 750 volts of electricity, into the front carriage charring everything inside.

“This is a truly ugly and brutal sight,” he added. “The third rail of the track came up from the explosion and went right through the car, it’s a devastatingly ugly situation.

“It’s actually amazing that not more people were hurt on that train.”

Of the 12 people injured, 10 were in a serious condition last night and two had non-life-threatening injuries, officials said.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said preliminary information showed that the car was on a railway crossing when the gates came down on top of it and it became stuck on the tracks.

The driver got out of the car, then got back and attempted to drive forwards before it was hit by the commuter train from Manhattan to Wassaic.

“The smoke was orange coming off the train, it was still on fire at that point. The front car was billowing heavy smoke out of the windows and doors,” said Jared Woodard, an employee of BGC Financial in New York, who was on the train travelling home to Chappaqua.

Hundreds of passengers from the eight-carriage train, which carries 650 on average, were taken to a rock-climbing gym for shelter, authorities said.

The US National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the tragedy and parts of the line are expected to remain closed on Wednesday morning.

Other Metro-North trains have been involved in accidents in recent years.

One derailed near the northern edge of New York city on 1 December 2013, killing four passengers and injuring 70. Investigations revealed that it had been travelling nearly three times over the speed limit for the section of track where it crashed.

Authorities said there was no indication that the train driver was at fault in Tuesday’s collision.

Earlier in 2013, two Metro-North passenger trains collided between Fairfield and Bridgeport, Connecticut, injuring more than 70 people.