New York: At least seven people, including a woman, were killed and 12 others injured when a crowded commuter train rammed into a SUV stalled on the tracks and caught fire in a New York suburb, one of the worst railway accidents in the US in recent years.
A Metro-North train that had departed from the busy Grand Central Station in Manhattan at 5:45 in the evening yesterday smashed into the sport utility vehicle (SUV) on the tracks in Valhalla, a suburb of New York City.
The SUV was pushed about 400 feet along the track after the train plowed into it, officials said, as orange flames and black smoke erupted from the burning train at the height of rush hour. Hundreds rushed for the train exits as they evacuated near Valhalla.
It was the deadliest crash in the history of Metro-North, the second busiest US commuter railroad.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) said that the gates at the railway crossing came down on top of the car, which was stopped on the tracks.
A woman, who was driving the car got out to look at the rear of the SUV, came back in and was struck by the approaching train as she drove forward.
“You have seven people who started out today to go about their business and aren’t going to be making it home tonight,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference.
“This is an ugly and brutal site, the third rail of the track came up from the explosion and came right through the train car…the fire consumed the vehicle and then the first car of the train itself,” he said.
Among the people dead is the woman driver. Twelve others have been injured as the lead car of the train caught fire following the crash.
Witnesses said the woman drove her Jeep Cherokee onto the railroad crossing, then stopped and got out to check her vehicle after one of the gates came down and struck her car.
She climbed back in but could not get off the tracks before the train rammed into her —- and she may have been trapped, Cuomo said. Preliminary finding indicated “she was stopped on the tracks with the gates down,” the governor said.
About 800 to 850 people were on the train at the time of the accident. Passengers Ray Pierce and Matt Lucas were quoted by CBS News as saying that they felt a thud and soon the train decelerated. Most people on the train were evacuated from the rear end of the train and were taken to a local rock-climbing gym for shelter.
The incident is the latest in a string of problems that have plagued Metro-North in recent years.
In December 2013, four persons were killed and over 60 injured when a Metro-North train from Poughkeepsie bound for Grand Central in Manhattan derailed.
In July 2013, 10 cars of a freight train carrying trash also derailed and in May, a passenger train struck a commuter train near Connecticut, injuring over 70 people.