Fiery Train-SUV Crash Kills 6 In New York

Photo by Kevin from
Photo by Kevin from

Six people were killed in a fiery crash Tuesday evening, when an SUV stopped on train tracks and an evening rush-hour train collided with it, in suburban Westchester, New York. This was the worst accident in the commuter railway Metro-North’s history. Eyewitnesses say an SUV, first reported to be a Jeep Cherokee but later said to have been a Mercedes Benz, stopped on the tracks of a train crossing at Commerce St.?in Valhalla, New York, at 6:30 p.m. The safety gate came down on the SUV and the female driver got out and looked around, then got back in the vehicle and tried to move it.

Crowded train 659 hit the SUV, catching fire but not derailing. The electrified third rail of the train tracks was dislodged by the impact and pierced through the front car of the commuter train. Smoke billowed out of the scorched car for several hours. Passengers were evacuated through the rear of the train. For several hours news sources reported seven deaths but the tally was reduced to six around 8 a.m. Many of the injured were taken to nearby Westchester Medical Center.

Newly re-elected Governor Andrew Cuomo arrived at the scene and was briefed on the accident. He also spoke at length to media about the situation. Staff from the National Transportation?Safety Board will probe the scene and investigate the causes behind this horrific accident.

Metro-North has experienced a?few other fearsome accidents in the recent past. In early Dec.?2013 a Metro-North train derailed at the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx, killing four passengers and injuring more than 60. In May 2013 two Metro-North trains collided in Bridgeport, Connecticut, but no one died.

There is an eerie, other-worldly element to this story, as well.The accident happened in Valhalla. In Norse mythology, Valhalla is the hall in which the god Odin keeps the dead souls he considers worthy of living with him. It is a place of continuous battles. And this Westchester, New York location is next to a burial ground, the Kensico Cemetery.

What caused this terrible traffic accident? Were there problems with the train safety mechanism? Was the driver in the wrong, trying to outrace a train? Did her car malfunction? Despite what we learn, six are dead, dozens hurt, and thousands are forced to re-route their travel to and from work in a busy region of New York State.

Ellen Levitt is the author of The Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn (2009), The Lost Synagogues of the Bronx and Queens (2011) and The Lost Synagogues of Manhattan (2013), all published by Avotaynu. She is a lifelong New Yorker, a veteran public school teacher, writer and photographer. Bird lover as well.