Tragic mystery

New York train crash still under investigation

By Elizabeth Casella
Intern

The deadliest crash in the history of New York commuter railroad that left six dead occurred on Feb. 3. This unfortunate crash happened when a woman’s Mercedes SUV was left on the train tracks as a train approached. The train hit the car and carried it 1,000ft along the tracks while the car was ignited in flames. The third rail of the train that is electrified was propelled through the SUV into the first train car. The rail then broke apart into 80 ft. pieces for 400 ft. along the track.

Five passengers inside the first train car were left dead after a fire broke out from the accident. The sixth victim was the driver of the car, Ellen Brody. The other five victims have been identified through dental records due to the bodies being burned beyond recognition in the fire. Officials from the Federal National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating the state the bodies were left in as well as the crash itself. It is unknown why the bodies were burned so badly from the fire or why the SUV was on the tracks.

“It is a physical reality. The train’s ‘failure to stop’ is not a surprise or a cause of the accident… This accident was unfortunate bad luck … It is a constant battle against vehicles on road crossings,” said Steven Harrod, a former professor at the University of Dayton in Ohio and a railroad expert in an interview with CNN.com.

The accident occurred when Brody’s SUV was left stuck on the tracks after warning lights went off and gates were lowered trapping the vehicle on the tracks. Several witnesses of the accident told investigators that the driver behind Brody backed up to give her space to get off of the tracks. She got out of her car to check her back window that the gate had struck when it came down and then proceeded to get back into the car and pulled forward instead of backwards. Within seconds the train hit the car.

“It is tragic that something like this happened. Train accidents happen often, but the details of how bad this one was are shocking. I just wonder why the driver could not move her car off the tracks,” said Livonia resident Claire Rish.

According to the NTSB the train’s emergency break was pulled when the train operator saw the SUV on the tracks and blared the horns while the flashing lights and gate were coming down. The train was traveling at 58 mph and took approximately 980 ft. to stop after the break was applied. It was too late though.

“I feel for all of the families of the six people who died. It is a horrible way to lose a family member and is sad that this accident happened. It is unfortunate the SUV was stuck on the tracks,” said Schoolcraft student Zach Western.

The funerals for the six victims have begun. The crash was removed by Wednesday Feb. 4 after twenty-four straight hours of clean up. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority who operated the train resumed operating trains on Feb 4. NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt announced that the agency is particularly interested in why the SUV was on the tracks and why the crash was so deadly for the passengers. In the midst of the tragedy ongoing investigations will soon bring answers.