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New York Commuter Train Was Going 49 MPH When It Struck SUV, Killing 6, Official Says

Twelve 39-foot sections of electrified rail also penetrated the first train car during the crash in Valhalla, New York, according to a preliminary investigation.

What We Know So Far

  • A Metro-North Railroad train smashed into a SUV on the tracks in Valhalla, New York on Tuesday, killing six people and injuring 15.
  • The person driving the SUV, Ellen Brody, 49, was a mother of the daughters and a jewelry store employee.
  • Witnesses said they were confused by Brody's actions that led up to the crash, which included her getting out of the SUV when a security arm came down on it, then getting back in and driving on the tracks.
  • Full service was restored on the railroad, with some delays, on Thursday morning.
  • The accident forced hundreds of people on board the rush hour train to flee the thick smoke and fire.
  • Federal authorities from the National transportation Safety Board are investigating.
  • This is the latest in a series of fatal accidents for Metro-North, though officials indicate that this accident was caused by the Jeep's driver and not the train's engineer.


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A New York commuter train was going 49 mph Tuesday night when it slammed into an SUV, killing six and injuring 15 others, a federal safety official said Friday.

NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt told reporters that 12 39-foot sections of the third rail penetrated the first car of the Metro-North Railroad train during the in Valhalla, New York.

The speed limit for the section of rail is 60 mph.

The SUV, described by Sumwalt as a 2011 Mercedes Benz ML350, burst into flames in the crash, which killed the driver, 49-year-old Ellen Brody, and five passengers.

After the collision, the engineer radioed Metro-North's dispatch center, which shut off power to the third rail, Sumwalt said.

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino has said that after the impact, the train's engineer "was trying to do what he could do to save people" before having to abandon the cars as the fire spread.

NTSB officials have been inspecting the wrecked train car since moving it to a covered storage facility.

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Here are the victims of the fatal crash:

The AP confirmed through family members that the dead train passengers included:

Walter Liedtke, a curator of European paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Eric Vandercar, 53, a senior managing director at Mesirow Financial, Aditya Tomar, 41, who worked in the financial field in Manhattan, and Robert Dirks, 36, a research scientist at D.E. Shaw Research in Manhattan.

The driver of the SUV that went onto the tracks was jewelry store worker Ellen Brody, 49, the mother of three grown daughters and "an active member of the local synagogue," the AP reported.

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Recordings from the train and crossing gates have already been collected, but investigators will be on the scene for five to seven days.

The train car will be moved to a covered storage facility where it can be further inspected.

Sumwalt said the first priority is collecting "perishable evidence," including testimonies from witness whose memories may fade over time. Investigators are urging witnesses to contact them with any information by emailing

#NTSB team arrives and begins to look at wreckage #MetroNorthCrash

Theresa Juva-Brown@TJuvaFollow

#NTSB team arrives and begins to look at wreckage #MetroNorthCrash

11:19 AM - 04 Feb 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

NTSB investigators exploring the first melted train car. #metronorthcrash

Candice Ruud@candiceruudFollow

NTSB investigators exploring the first melted train car. #metronorthcrash

11:19 AM - 04 Feb 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

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Gross said he'd been watching a film on his laptop when the impact occurred. "People started falling over each other," he said. "It was so quick."

"I saw flames coming at me, about a foot from my head," he said.

Gross said he saw a man in front of him lose his leg in the crash.

He said a man with burnt hands was able to open the emergency exit door, allowing people to escape. The man then stuck his hands into the snow outside the train.

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The MTA issued this update on Wednesday morning:

"The number of fatalities in the Metro-North Railroad accident last night in Valhalla, originally listed as seven, has been revised to six. This includes five passengers aboard the Metro-North train and the driver of the car. The number of passengers being treated for injuries at local hospitals is 15."

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Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said Wednesday that the train's engineer "was trying to do what he could do to save people ... but at some point, you have to get out."

He said the five bodies found on the train "are all from the front car ... they are very badly burned and unidentifiable" at this time.

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National Transportation Safety Board Member Robert Sumwalt said Wednesday that the federal investigation, which has begun, will focus on signals and crossing gates, recording devices, highway factors, and the spread of the fire.

"We've got busy days ahead of us, we are just launching," he said, adding the NTSB will "find out why it happened so we can issue safety recommendations."

"At this point, everything is on the table, nothing is off the table."

Investigators will be on the scene for five to seven days, he said, and the overall review will take about 12 months.