The actions of an SUV driver who inexplicably stopped crossing a North New York railroad, resulting in a fire collision on a commuter rail that killed her and five train passengers, the focus of the investigation into the deadliest metro accident in North Railroad history, he said Officials.
Robert Sumwalt, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, said investigators are not sure why the Mercedes SUV stopped on the tracks in Valhalla, about 30 miles north of New York City.
“For reasons not known precisely at this time but for reasons we intend to discover, the SUV has been stopped on the tracks,” he told reporters.
Moshki Raskin, program director at Chabad in Rivertowns, a synagogue in nearby Dobbs Ferry, said the SUV driver was Ellen Brody. Brody was the mother of three girls, according to a friend of her family.
A Transportation Authority official with knowledge of the accident said that the crossing gates fell on her car. I got down to check the back of her car, then got back in the car, drove forward and was hit just before 7 PM, and the car was towed 1,000 feet.
Somwalt said that about 400 feet of electrified third track punched holes in the first rail car and a fraction of the second in 80-foot sections “split into section, basically piling up” in cars.
He pointed out that the initial indications indicated the outbreak of a fire targeting both the SUV, and it was the first railway car to be fed with gasoline from the car.
NTSB investigators collected tape recorders from the scene. Sumwalt said the railway signals and crossing arms at the intersection had recorders.
All but one of the dead, Westchester County executive Rob Astorino, said were burned beyond recognition. Dental records were used to identify the victims.
One of the train victims has been identified as Walter Lidditch, Curator of European Paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“We don’t have an official confirmation yet, but it looks like he was among the victims in the first car,” museum director Thomas Campbell wrote in an email to the staff. “We were all shocked by this news and we have all of his family, especially his wife Nancy, on our minds.”
Also died in the meltdown. Eric Vandrekar, 52, Senior Managing Director of Institutional Sales and Trading at Mesirow Financial.
“Eric was not only a pillar in our industry, but he was a wonderful partner and friend of many,” said Mesirow Financial. “His loss is a huge loss, both personally and professionally. The entire Misero family is suffering and our deepest sympathy is for his wife Jill and their family.”
Joseph Nadol and Robert Dirks also died in the collision, according to New Castle, New York, city superintendent Robert Greenstein.
“On behalf of the town of New Castle, we would like to express our sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of Joseph Nadol of Ossinning, Robert Dirks of Chapaqua and Ellen Brody, who worked in a local jewelry store,” Greenstein said in a press release. statement. “Our hearts were shattered by this tragic accident.”
Dirks worked on D. E. Shaw research.
“Robert was a brilliant scientist who made tremendous contributions to our research, and to the wider scientific community, during his eight years on DE Shaw research,” the company said in a statement. “We will miss him deeply as a colleague and friend. Our hearts are with his wife Christine and their children.”
Nadol was a GB Morgan analyst.
“We will miss Joe a lot,” JP Morgan said in a statement. “In addition to being an outstanding analyst, he was an exceptional colleague and friend. He was kind, thoughtful, and had a great sense of humor. Our thoughts and support are with Joe’s wife, his three young children, and his entire family.”
Danbury, Connecticut, Mayor T. Mark Boughton, the sixth death on the train was Aditya Tomar. He also worked for JP Morgan.
“Aditya was an extraordinary colleague,” the company said in a statement. “His leadership skills, sense of humor and tireless team spirit contributed to providing a better workplace for all of us at JPMorgan Asset Management. Our thoughts and support are with his wife and his entire family.”
In addition, 15 people were injured, said Governor Andrew Cuomo. It was the deadliest accident in Metro-North Rail history in 32 years.
After the accident, passenger Justin Capac said he didn’t feel anything when a passenger train collided with the car.
He didn’t even know there was an accident or that the accident killed six people.
The governor’s office and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Wednesday morning revised the total death toll, which was initially reported to be seven.
Kabak said he received no warning of a fire that was about to ignite in the train’s first car.
Astorino, a Westchester County chief executive, said the northbound train left Grand Central Terminal in New York more than an hour ago.
He said the scene was “horrific and unimaginable.” The first ever submerged railroad carriage was a melted and charred structure.
“To think about what these passengers went through when they boarded the 5:45 pm train last night, they might talk to someone at home, saying they are on their way and the world has been turned upside down,” Astorino told reporters.
He said that the crossing where the accident occurred was “a little dangerous.” Traffic was diverted to the area after an unrelated accident occurred on a nearby highway.
“This is an area that I think the state (the Ministry of Transport) needs to look at to see if we can improve it,” he said.
Hospital officials said eight people were still receiving treatment at Westchester County Medical Center on Wednesday, including one in critical condition and one in critical condition. Three suffered burns. Four of them went out during the night.
“The bright side here is that the injuries and the scale of the injuries were not as serious as they could be, relatively, for some other major trauma activation,” Dr. Joseph Torkovsky, director of the burn unit, told reporters. “We would have had a lot of sick people, and a lot of serious injuries, and that would have led to more deaths. We are grateful for that.”
“A lot of us take Metro North and we have families that take Metro North. So it hits close to home,” said Emergency Department Director Dr. Evan Miller.
Inspectors from the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.
“We will work closely with the NTSB and local officials to determine the exact cause of this tragedy, and we will work to ensure that incidents like this do not recur,” Joseph Julieti, president of Metro-North Rail, said in a statement.
The cause of the crash has yet to be determined, but Astorino said: “At this point, all indications from the MTA at least are that it wasn’t a problem with the tracks or anything. It was unfortunately a human error, but that’s part of the investigation.”
Kabak, the passenger, who spoke with Don Lemon of CNN, said he only felt the train brake and was close to a standstill, not the effect with the car.
“They switched off the engine, cut off the electricity and cut off the air,” he said. Then there was silence.
The first word came for any mistake made by other passengers. They came back from the front of the train, saying they smelled like gasoline.
Kabak said they told him, “We have to move to the back of the train.”
As passengers were fleeing gas fumes, he said, a short advertisement over the train’s loudspeakers told passengers that the train had collided with a car.
He said he heard no further details or instructions.
“The train is on,” Kabak said, someone shouted outside the train, and the car he was in was getting hot.
He said he felt claustrophobic.
“Then I knew it was time to get off,” said Kabak. The other passengers did, too. He said they opened the emergency doors and smashed the windows. Everyone came out in an orderly manner without panic.
Snow on the ground, which descended sharply from the track, made climbing the train difficult.
Once outside, Kabak snapped pictures of the train’s first car, as flames rose from its windows.
Pictures of the scene and aerial video from CNN’s WCBS showed flames and smoke billowing from the windows of the commuter train.
Astorino said the first car was the only one that caught fire. “Everything melted inside.” There wasn’t much damage from the back of the second car.
Astorino said the train was full when the accident happened. “There were about 650 (people) on the way home.”
MTA spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said the accident was the deadliest in Metro-North Rail history. The deadliest accident previously occurred in December 2013, when four passengers were killed and more than 70 were injured in a derailment on the Hudson Line in the Bronx.
In October, the National Transportation Safety Board said that an investigation of five accidents on the North Metro revealed “recurring safety issues, including inadequate and ineffective track inspection and maintenance, overall deferred maintenance problems, inadequate safety oversight, and deficiencies.” On passenger car collision authority, road worker protection measures, and organizational safety culture.
Those accidents killed six people and injured 126 others, according to NTSB, which found “many safety management issues that were common to all of the accidents.”
The day before NTSB announced its results, the MTA appointed David Mayer, former NTSB managing director, as the chief safety officer.
Somwalt told reporters Wednesday morning in Washington that NTSB teams with expertise in several areas, including highway and rail traffic lights, gates, fire spread and recorders, will be on site for five to seven days.
He said the investigation could take about 12 months.