Westchester County released the remaining names Wednesday evening of the six people who perished in the worst accident in the history of Metro-North, which included one Chappaqua resident and two Bedford residents.
Earlier in the day, multiple media outlets reported that Ellen Brody, 49, of Edgemont, who worked at ICD Contemporary Jewelry in Chappaqua, was the driver of the SUV that ended up on the tracks at the Commerce Street train crossing.
The first two passengers were identified as Eric Vandercar, 53, an investment banker from Bedford, and Walter Liedtke, 69, an art curator from Bedford Hills.
The three remaining victims are Chappaqua resident Robert Dirks, 36; Tomar Aditya, 41, of Danbury; and Joseph Nadol, 42, of Ossining.
The task of identifying the deceased was made more painful because five of the victims could only be identifed through dental records, County Executive Rob Astorino said.
Meanwhile, at a late Wednesday afternoon briefing in Tarrytown, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) member and spokesman Robert Sumwalt said details into the accident may emerge as soon as Thursday.
The team of investigators arrived Wednesday morning from Washington to begin piecing together the bits of information, witness statements and evidence to paint a “play-by-play” recap of what happened.
By Thursday, investigators are likely to learn the speed of the train upon impact. They also will start disseminating the recording devices on the train, the traffic signal at Commerce Street and the Taconic Parkway and the railroad crossing signal, Sumwalt said.
Sumwalt said most train-car collisions are fatal for the occupants of the vehicle but not for the passengers on the train.
“We intend to find out what made this incident different, what made this different to be fatal to the five occupants of the train,” Sumwalter said.
“We’re here to find out what happened to prevent this incident from happening again,” he added.
Sumwalt said the NTSB team is also looking into whether an accident on the parkway shortly before the car-train collision played a role in the tragedy.
Interviews with the engineer and conductor are also scheduled in the next two days.
Sumwalt said the Mercedes SUV that Brody was driving was pushed about 1,000 feet down the track. About 400 feet of the third rail broke apart, including piercing the SUV from just behind the driver’s seat near and tearing through the floor of the train’s first car. The third rail even went into a portion of the second train car.
Here is an earlier update on the Valhalla car-train accident.
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators are on the scene to begin learning why a Metro-North commuter train slammed into an SUV early Tuesday evening in Valhalla, killing six people.
NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt said he expects the wreckage will be removed from the tracks before the end of the day and brought to a storage facility. Investigators will be in Westchester for the next five to seven days, he said.
“We’re going to collect the information that goes away with the passage of time,” Sumwalt said. “That’s what we’re here to do–document the scene, start collecting the perishable evidence, interview witnesses…”
Sumwalt said if there are witnesses who have information, they can reach the NTSB by e-mail at email@example.com.
Below is the original article.
The MTA has revised the number of casualties in Tuesday’s early evening crashed that saw a northbound Harlem line Metro-North train packed with commuters struck an SUV that found its way onto the tracks at the Commerce Street crossing in Valhalla.
The MTA reported at about 8:40 a.m. this morning that six people were killed and 15 injured.
Providing an update this morning, County Executive Rob Astorino said that families of five of the six people who died were notified by the Westchester County medical examiner’s office that the bodies could not be visually recognized.
The train, traveling at an estimated 60 miles per hour, the 5:45 out of Grand Central Station, collided with a Mercedes SUV just after 6:30 p.m. igniting a fire, Astorino said in a late Tuesday night briefing. There was an explosion and both the vehicle and the train’s front car were engulfed in flames.
The woman who drove the SUV and the five passengers in the lead car of the eight-car train were killed. Astorino said the impact caused the third rail to come up through the floor of the train car, while the jeep was sent hurtling with the driver inside at least 400 feet down the track. It wasn’t immediately known whether the explosion and fire was caused by the collision or the third rail.
The county executive, who was extremely somber when he appeared at about 11:30 p.m. at the transportation management office in Hawthorne, had taken a tour of the crash site before making his remarks and was clearly affected by seeing the charred wreckage firsthand.
“What I saw on that train is something that I’ll never forget,” Astorino said. “I am amazed that anyone got off that train (alive).”
The 15 injured passengers were also in the front car, most of them seriously hurt, he said. Most were taken to nearby Westchester Medical Center. It appears that everyone in the rest of the train was able to walk away from the scene. One of the injured was the train’s engineer.
Hundreds of passengers were seen evacuating the rear of the train and walking along the Taconic Parkway, on nearby streets or through the snow in nearby Gate of Heaven Cemetery looking for a way to get home, Astorino said.
On a typical weekday, the 5:45 from Grand Central averages about 655 commuters, said MTA President and CEO Thomas Prendergast.
In a separate briefing and tour of the scene, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, called it a “truly ugly and brutal site.”
“Most importantly, you have seven people who started out today to go about their business and aren’t going to be making it home tonight,” Cuomo said. “It’s a painful reminder to all of us how precious life is and sometimes how random it can be.”
Emergency responders and investigators were on the scene throughout the night, first to put out the fire, then look for more victims, Astorino said. The identities and home towns of those killed were not released. The Westchester County Medical Examiner was also on the scene.
Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board were expected to arrive in Westchester Wednesday morning to begin their investigation. It was not known why the vehicle was on the tracks.
The train, an express to Southeast, had made its last stop at 125th Street, Prendergast said. The next scheduled stop was Chappaqua, which explained why it was traveling at full speed near the Valhalla train station.
Prendergast, who said the railroad crossing barriers had come down on the vehicle, explained how the third rail could have been lifted and gone through the automobile and into the train.
“The third rail stops at the grade crossing, so that’s where the contact with the automobile was made and it entered through the automobile and up through the floor of the (train) car,” he said.
The Taconic Parkway between Valhalla and the Sprain Brook Parkway will remain closed until further notice.
Metro-North service between Pleasantville and North White Plains was immediately suspended. For Wednesday, there will be shuttle bus service to take commuters from Pleasantville to the North White Plains station. There will be service from Pleasantville to points north along the Harlem line, he said.
There is no service southbound from Golden Bridge to North White Plains. Commuters must go up to Goldens Bridge or to Pleasantville to catch a shuttle bus to North White Plains.
Metro-North Harlem Line commuters seeking to use the main White Plains station should be advised that parking in the White Plains TransCenter garage is limited. Additional parking may be found at the Lexington-Grove West (Galleria) Garage located at 100 Main Street. This garage is located within walking distance of the White Plains train station.
Commuters north of Brewster will be shuttled to the Beacon station on the Hudson line, Prendergast said. Northern commuters on the Harlem line also can get off at Goldens Bridge and take available shuttle service to North White Plains.
For Astorino, the deadly crash hit close to home.
“I was a commuter. This is my home town and I would take (that) train from Hawthorne,” he said. “You sit down on the train with your iPad or iPod and you expect to get home safely. This is the last thing anyone would expect to happen.”