The National Transportation Safety Board released dramatic new photos of collision between a Metro-North train and an SUV in Westchester earlier this year that killed six people and injured more than a dozen.
The photos show charred seats and debris strewn across the aisles of a train car, as well as the smashed SUV straddling the tracks after the Feb. 3 collision, which killed five men on the Metro-North evening commuter train and Ellen Brody, the woman whose SUV was hit by the train, at a grade crossing in Valhalla. A fire erupted, apparently fueled by the SUV's gasoline, and 11 sections of the railroad's electrified rail pierced the SUV and the train car.
The docket opened Wednesday, which contains more than 1,100 documents, does not include analysis. The analysis and probable cause for the accident will be issued at a later date.
About 650 passengers and two crew members were on the train at the time of the accident. Witnesses said Brody had been stopped in the crossing prior to the gates lowering. When the crossing arm lowered, it struck the back of the SUV. Brody got out to look at the back of the SUV, then got back inside, drove forward and was hit by the train.
According to the docket opened Wednesday, Brody was not on the phone at the time she ended up on the tracks and testing found no alcohol or illegal drugs in her system. By all accounts, she was well-rested and emotionally sound. In emotional testimony, her husband said Brody was unfamiliar with train crossings and probably had no idea how much danger she was in.
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The train, which had been traveling at 58 mph prior to emergency braking, below the maximum allowable speed on that section of track of 60 mph, slowed to 49 mph in 4 seconds, then hit the SUV traveled about 665 feet before coming to a stop, the NTSB said. The movement caused damage to the electrified third rail, which detached and pierced the Mercedes SUV and then the first car of the train, breaking into sections, 11 of which ended up inside the first railcar. The entire first car was consumed by fire, and autopsies showed all six people killed had burns and blunt-force trauma.
Preliminary review of the event recorder data showed proper horn operation on approach to the crossing. It also showed one long horn blast upon initiation of the emergency brake.
The Westchester County crossing has no barrier between the street and the tracks, and such crossings present safety issues, officials have said.
Brody's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the railroad and the MTA, saying her death, and the deaths of the five others, could have been avoided if the established federal safety standards for signage and lights had been met.
The chairman of the MTA, which runs Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road, has said the agency is considering all possible safety enhancements that would prevent such deadly accidents in the future. It is also partnering with a nonprofit that educates the public about the dangers at rail crossings.