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NTSB Releases Preliminary Report On Deadly Metro-North Train Crash

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Federal investigators have released a preliminary report on the fiery collision between a Metro-North train and an SUV that killed six people.

A Harlem Line train crashed into a Mercedes SUV on Feb. 3 at a grade crossing in Valhalla, sparking an explosion and fire that burned out the first car of the train.

LINK: Read The Complete Preliminary Report (.pdf) | PHOTOS: Deadly Metro-North Accident

Ellen Brody, the SUV driver; Walter Liedtke, a curator of European paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Eric Vandercar, 53, a senior managing director at Mesirow Financial; Joseph Nadol, 42, a JPMorgan Chase & Co. executive; Aditya Tomar, 41, who worked in asset management at JPMorgan; and Robert Dirks, 36, a research scientist at D.E. Shaw Research in Manhattan, were killed. All six suffered blunt-force injuries and burns, a medical examiner said.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigators' preliminary report confirms many previously disclosed findings. One new disclosure is that the crash cost the railroad about $3.7 million in damage.

"The SUV was stopped on the railroad tracks in the highway-rail grade crossing and was positioned in an easterly direction when the railroad crossing gates moved to the closed position. Witnesses reported the driver of the SUV as being stopped in the crossing prior to the gates lowering," investigators said. "When the gate lowered it struck the rear portion of the SUV after which the driver exited the SUV, looked at the back of the SUV, then got back in the SUV, drove forward (east), and was struck by the train."

NTSB Releases Preliminary Report On Deadly Metro-North Train Crash

According to investigators' preliminary findings, Brody's car was in the danger zone inside railroad crossing gates for about half a minute before the train hit.

Train track speed in the area was 60 mph. Investigators found the train was moving at 58 mph before the engineer hit the emergency brake about 300 feet ahead of the crossing. The brake slowed the train to 49 mph in four seconds when it hit the SUV, according to the preliminary report.

The train traveled about 650 feet before coming to a stop, the NTSB said. The third rail penetrated the SUV and then the first car of the train.

Some 480 feet of the third rail was damaged, according to the report. Investigators will conduct a metallurgical test on some samples of the rail.

Sen. Charles Schumer released a statement Monday following the NTSB report, calling the train's engineer a hero.

"The report underscores that Steven Smalls Jr. was a true hero in the face of a horrible situation; his quick reaction in slowing the train and subsequent rescue of injured passengers saved numerous lives," the statement said in part.

Schumer also called on the Metro-North and the Federal Railroad Administration to study the report "in search of any changes that can make rail crossings safer on the near term."

"...I look forward to a full determination of the accident's cause and final recommendations that can guide our transit systems towards a safer path," Schumer concluded.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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