By Grace Bennett
“When you get on a train, you expect to arrive safely to work or to home.” Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino
Instead, last night’s ride home was every commuter’s worst nightmare. These additional comments and info were gleaned last night during a press conference during which Astorino described a “completely burnt out scene” at the site of the deadly Metro North collision.
• It was a 5:45 p.m. express to Chappaqua at full capacity with some 650 passengers, traveling at 60 mph. The “standing room only” vehicle made its normal first stop at Harlem’s 125th Street station… before disaster struck.
• Seven people died in the train’s collision with a black Jeep Cherokee, whose woman driver, one of the persons killed by the collision, had reportedly stopped on the steel tracks in Mount Pleasant along the Commerce Street crossing in Valhalla.
• 12 more of the passengers are being treated for injuries, 11 inside the trauma center of Westchester Medical Center. At least 10 of the injured are in serious condition, he added. One injured passenger was taken to Phelps Memorial Hospital.
• He described the cause of the crash as either “confusion” by the driver or a “malfunction of the vehicle.” “This was not the conductor or engineer’s fault.”
• A third row of rail came up from the tracks and through the entire front car. Astorino expressed amazement that anyone was able to get out of that ill fated car which he described as “all melted inside.” He added it was a miracle too in that: “The train did not derail; it stayed on the tracks.”
• Precise details about what happened to cause the crash in what is being deemed the worst accident in the history of Metro North continue to be investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.
• First responders and a Medical Examiner arrived at the scene “in very good time,” said Astorino.
No IDs of victims were available; families need to be informed first.
“Most people are creatures of habit…You go into your own world, reading the paper or listening to an IPod. “I can’t imagine what it was like at impact. There must have been pure panic.”
Editor’s Note: As news about this disaster unfolded, my first impulse was to drive to Westchester Medical Center. There, a long line of media, primarily camera crews, were lined up waiting for possible word. It was an eerie and also helpless feeling waiting outside knowing the intensity that must be taking place inside WMC’s walls where doctors and nurses must still be working furiously this morning to save lives and repair injuries, while hospital personnel address and comfort devastated and worried family members. After awhile, I headed to Hawthorne to the State Trooper’s Headquarters to hear Astorino’s comments.