Tragedy struck during the evening rush hours, north of New York City on Tuesday when a packed commuter train hurtling at 60mph struck a stranded SUV on the tracks killing it occupant and six people aboard the train. The electrified third rail was shoved through the floor of a crowded car.
Frightened and bleeding passengers groped and jumbled through the burning and warped wreckage, some leaving through the Metro-North train’s car windows following the 6:30 p.m. crash in Valhalla, some 20 miles north of the city.
The tragedy has led injuries to at least a dozen people. 10 among the injured persons are said to be in a critical condition. The Locomotive engineer was one among the injured.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference late Tuesday, “You have seven people who started out today to go about their business and aren’t going to be making it home tonight.”
The crash happened moments after the railroad crossing gates closed on top of a black Jeep Cherokee that had stopped just before the tracks. The female driver got outside the vehicle to have a look at the vehicle, later got back to move the vehicle as the train, carrying as many as 700 passengers, bore down.
The train broadsided the vehicle and pushed it many feet before it burst into flames and created an appalling scene of twisted steel, burning debris and the agonized cries of injured riders.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino described the train as “completely charred and burned. I am amazed anyone got off that train alive. It must have been pure panic, with the flames, the third rail and the smoke.”
The commuters were evacuated through the rear train car and about 400 commuters were taken to ‘The Cliffs at Valhalla’, a rock-climbing gym near the scene for immediate assessment and treatment. The train had left the Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan at 5:44 p.m. and was to halt at South East at 7:08 PM. It is not clear how fast the train was moving but the maximum will be 60mph.