NTSB: SUV driver to blame in fatal 2015 Metro-North collision

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WASHINGTON — Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board have determined an SUV driver’s actions are to blame in the deadly 2015 collision between the vehicle and a Metro-North commuter train at a grade crossing in Valhalla, N.Y.

According to a NTSB news release, the driver of the SUV was fouling a grade crossing at the time of the incident. The Metro-North train was traveling at 51 mph when it collided with the SUV, pushing it more than 660 feet down the right-of-way.

The incident caused a third rail to detach, which then penetrated the floor of the first passenger car and into the passenger seating area. At the same time, sparks and flying debris came in contact with fuel, which led to a fire onboard the first passenger car. A total of five Metro-North passengers were killed in the incident along with the driver of the SUV.

NTSB investigators noted that Metro-North’s third rail system was not designed to fail in a controlled manner or break away when subjected to overloaded conditions. Investigators also noted the use of third rail systems may increase the severity of railcar damage and serious injuries at grade crossings.

In the wake of the incident, investigators recommended local officials assess the safety of grade crossings and asked commuter rails, like Metro North, to assess their safety when using third rail power systems at or around grade crossings.

The NTSB was able to rule out the use of personal electronic devices and drugs and alcohol by both the SUV driver and the train engineer. Traffic signals and track and operating conditions were also ruled out as issues in the incident.

Eyewitnesses said roadway congestion at the time of the incident might have explained why the driver was occupying the grade crossing at the time while the train was approaching.

See the news release online.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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