NY personal injury attorney from the prominent NYC and Westchester law firm of Levy Konigsberg LLP comments on Metro-North railroad accident that caused multiple deaths and injuries on February 3rd, 2015.
VALHALLA, New York, February 5, 2015 – A typical commute home turned tragic after a fatal collision involving a Metro-North train and an SUV claimed the lives of six people and injured many more during yesterday’s evening rush hour in the town of Valhalla, located approximately 20 miles north of New York City.
The train, having departed from Grand Central Station about an hour earlier and carrying a full load of 650 passengers, was traveling close to 60 mph when it struck the SUV, which officials believe had moved onto the tracks just before the train reached the crossing.
The female driver of the SUV was among those killed. Officials believe the train collided with the Jeep Grand Cherokee just moments after railroad crossing gates came down on top of the vehicle. While details are still unraveling, witnesses claim the woman stopped just short of the tracks, then got out of her vehicle in an attempt to inspect her car and assess the situation. She then got back behind the wheel and apparently moved forward into the path of the barreling train, though a man in the car behind her did not believe this was her intention.
The horror of the massive collision that launched flames and debris through the night sky did not stop here. The first car of the train caught fire after throwing the SUV 400 feet forward, sending passengers into a chaotic frenzy as they attempted to escape the scorching trap. While many eluded the fire by climbing out of windows or exiting the rear of the train, five passengers were unable to escape and fell victim to the flames. In addition to the six deaths, at least 15 people were injured, and seven seriously.
“You have seven people who started out today to go about their business and aren’t going to be making it home tonight,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference on Tuesday, before the death count was decreased by one on Wednesday morning.
Audrey Perlman Raphael, a partner at the products liability and personal injury firm of Levy Konigsberg LLP (“LK”) and daily Metro-North commuter, expressed her concern over the accident. “As residents of Westchester County we share the grief and mourn the loss of our fellow Metro-North commuter family. As attorneys, who represent victims of tragic accidents, we pray for the victims and their families and offer our assistance and guidance if needed,” she said.
Rail officials say an investigation into the accident is already underway, a process that could take up to a year to complete.
“Our goal is not only to find out what happened, but find out why it happened so we can issue safety regulations to prevent it from happening again,” National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt said.
Officials close to the investigation say the process will include close attention to several components of the rail system, including the crossing arms, rail traffic signals, and highway signals, each of which contains a recording device that will hopefully divulge information pertinent to the causes of the disaster.
Metro-North is no stranger to accidents in recent years. In 2014, the National Transportation Safety Board found recurrent fault with the railroad through its investigations into five accidents that spanned two years and occurred throughout New York and Connecticut.
The first passenger fatalities in the railroad’s history were amongst those accidents after a Hudson line train derailed in the Bronx in December 2013. An NTSB probe found that the train engineer had fallen asleep at the controls due to an undiagnosed case of sleep apnea, an error that left four dead.
A team of NTSB investigators will be arriving at the scene of Tuesday’s crash from Washington, D.C. in an attempt to bring clarity to how and why this tragedy occurred.
“At this point, everything is on the table. Nothing is off the table,” Mr. Sumwalt said.
Victims of the Metro-North railroad accident can contact the NY personal injury attorney Audrey Perlman Raphael for legal advice by calling 1.800.988.8005 or by submitting an online inquiry at this website.