At least seven people are dead and 12 are injured after a car collided with a Metro-North train in Westchester.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority says at around at 6:30 p.m., a #659 train coming from Grand Central Station hit a black Jeep Cherokee at Commerce Street in Valhalla.
Mount Pleasant police say the first car of the train caught fire following the collision.
The MTA says the first three cars of the train, which was carrying 800-850 passengers, were evacuated. Four hundred of them were taken to a nearby rock climbing gym for shelter.
The agency is working to get buses to the scene.
Service on the Metro-North’s Harlem line is temporarily suspended between North White Plains and Pleasantville.
The MTA says there is shuttle train service between Pleasantville and Southeast, and normal service between Southeast and Wassaic.
At a press conference, Westchester County Executive called the scene “unimagineable.”
“The flames and the smoke were so heavy that everyone had to jump off if they could,” he said. “I am utterly amazed that anyone got out of that car, that train, with the damage.”
“When you get on the train to go to work or to come home, you expect to arrive safely at home, or at work. The accident that happened near Spuyten Duyvil was different. This appears to have been not the conductor or the engineer’s fault-this appears to have been the driver’s fault, but that’s all part of the investigation and that’s the knee-jerk reaction right now,” he added.
The National Transportation Safety Board tweeted that it is launching an investigation into the accident.
Senator Charles Schumer released a statement following the news of the accident, saying, “Our hearts go out to those lost, we pray for those injured and our hats are tipped to the brave first responders who came to the scene of this tragic crash so quickly. I have spoken to Tom Prendergast, who has assured me that a full and thorough investigation has already begun. At this early stage, it is premature to point any fingers of blame, but there are many important questions that must be answered in the coming days.”
In a statement, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney said, “I’m simply heartbroken. All of us who ride Metro-North are moms, dads, brothers, and sisters and with every accident, a family is torn apart by an unspeakable tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are with all the victims, families and first responders. As MTA and NTSB looks into this horrific incident in the days to follow, we need to know how and why this happened and then take real steps to prevent another tragic collision from ever recurring.”
A number of accidents have placed the Metro-North under the microscope over the last few years.
First came a May 2013 collision between two Metro-North trains in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
That was followed less than two weeks later by the death of a track worker who was struck by a train.
Then in the summer of 2013, a garbage train spilled in the Bronx on Metro-North tracks a short distance from the Spuyten-Duyvil station.
Four died when a Metro-North train derailed in the Bronx in December 2013. It was later determined that the train’s operator, William Rockfeller, suffered from sleep apnea and had dozed off at the controls
Until that derailment, the railroad had never suffered a single customer fatality in its 30-year history.