VALHALLA, N.Y. (AP) — A commuter train slammed into a sport utility vehicle stuck on the tracks Tuesday evening, killing 6 people, mostly on the train, and injuring at least 12 others, authorities said.
The northbound train struck a Jeep Cherokee at a railroad crossing in Valhalla, about 20 miles north of New York City, Metro-North Railroad spokesman Aaron Donovan said. Killed were the SUV’s driver and five people aboard the train, he said.
The railroad track gates had come down on top of the SUV, which was stopped on the tracks, the Metro-North spokesman said. The driver got out to look at the rear of the vehicle, then she got back in and drove forward and was struck, he said.
The train shoved the SUV about 10 train car lengths north, and the SUV and the front of the train caught fire, he said.
Smoke poured out of the scorched rail car, its windows blackened.
Passenger Stacey Eisner, who was at the rear of the train, told NBC News that she felt the train “jerk” and then a conductor walked through the train explaining what had happened. She said her train car was evacuated about 10 minutes later using ladders to get people out.
The rail passengers were moved to the rear of the train, which had left Grand Central Terminal about 45 minutes earlier.
Passengers got off from the rear of the train. About 400 of them were taken to a local rock climbing gym for shelter. Buses were heading there to pick them up and take them to their destinations.
Service on Metro-North’s Harlem Line has been suspended between Pleasantville and North White Plains.
Metro-North is the nation’s second-busiest railroad, after the Long Island Rail Road. It was formed in 1983 and serves about 280,000 riders a day in New York and Connecticut.
Late last year, the National Transportation Safety Board issued rulings on five Metro-North accidents that occurred in New York and Connecticut in 2013 and 2014, repeatedly finding fault with the railroad while also noting that conditions have improved.
Among the accidents was a Dec. 1, 2014, derailment that killed four people in the Bronx. The NTSB said the engineer had fallen asleep at the controls because he had a severe, undiagnosed case of sleep apnea.
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