VALHALLA, N.Y. — The National Transportation Safety Board, NTSB, Wednesday opened the public docket on the investigation into the collision between a Metro North train and an SUV in Valhalla, N.Y., on February 3, 2015.
The opening of the docket is part of the ongoing investigation into the crash that killed six people and injured more than a dozen.
The docket, which contains more than 1,100 documents, will not include analysis, but will include interview summaries, photographs, and factual reports. The analysis and probable cause for the accident will be issued at a later date. You can find all of that information here.
A Danbury man, Aditya Tomar, 41, was killed while taking the train home from work in New York. He was born in India and moved to the U.S. to pursue his education and a career in the financial industry. His wife, Reshma Persaud, filed a claim against Metro-North Railroad, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the state of New York, the county of Westchester and the town of Mt. Pleasant.
The estate of the woman whose parked car was struck by the train is also suing Metro-North, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and others in a wrongful death suit.
Ellen Schaeffer Brody pulled off the Taconic State Parkway that evening due to an accident that was causing traffic. When she exited, she drove towards Commerce Street, which she wasn’t familiar with and had never driven on before.
According to a witness who was in the car behind Brody’s she stopped in the crossing because it was unclear a crossing was there. The witness said he is very familiar with the area, but he too ended up parked in the crossing because he wasn’t aware he was in it. Apparently, the witness knew there was a traffic light ahead, and thought he was stopped in line for that. A series of cars were stopped in front of him and Brody.
The witness said that he first became aware he was in the crossing when a gate with flashing lights suddenly, and without warning, came down, hitting the back of Brody’s car. Brody apparently got out of her car to examine the damage before getting back in and moving forward. At that point she was hit by the train, which was driving northbound at 6:26 p.m. on the Harlem line of Metro-North when it crossed the Commerce Street highway rail grade crossing in Valhalla, a hamlet of Mount Pleasant in Westchester County.
The witness said he didn’t see or hear it until it was right at Brody’s car, and said Brody likely was unaware that it was approaching as well. However, a report released after the accident did reveal that the train had sounded its audio warning system and tried to break.
The lawsuit places the blame on Metro-North Commuter Railroad Company, the MTA, the county of Westchester and the town of Mt. Pleasant. The suit claims both personal injuries, pain and suffering suffered by Brody before her death, and wrongful death on behalf of her estate,
The suit alleges negligence in ownership and the construction and design of the railroad crossing, signs, lighting and barriers. It also says that minimum federal requirements were not met to have enough signs up.
Other charges include that a building in the intersection further deadened the sound of the train’s warning system; that the angle at which the crossing went across the road was awkward and made the line of vision bad; and that there weren’t enough signs in the area, and those that were there were obscured by bad lighting and glares. There was also vegetation on the tracks, making them hard to differentiate from the street.
Apparently, the crossing was considered redundant because there were two more very close by. In 1984 another car-train accident occurred at the intersection, and the crossing was supposed to be closed or made safer. Funds were even provided to do so, but nothing was ever done.