First responders work the scene of a collision involving a Manhattan-bound commuter train and a vehicle in Westbury, N.Y., Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. The Long Island Railroad says service was suspended Tuesday evening in both directions on the Ronkonkoma and Huntington/Port Jefferson branches. (Howard Schnapp/Newsday via AP)

3 people killed in train-vehicle collision on Long Island

Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said the vehicle was ‘trying to beat the gate’

Two commuter trains travelling in opposite directions collided with a vehicle on the tracks in Westbury, killing all three occupants in the vehicle before one of the trains derailed and tore into a concrete platform Tuesday night, according to officials.

Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said the vehicle was “trying to beat the gate” when it was struck just before 7:30 p.m. He said one of the trains, which was carrying about 200 passengers and headed for Manhattan, was going at “full speed” when it crashed.

“The train then leaves the track and takes out the platform and the hits the north side of the platform and takes off about 30 yards of concrete, which goes through the train,” Ryder said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for a “full investigation into the collision,” which also sent seven people on the trains to local hospitals with non-fatal injuries and forced the evacuation of nearly 1,000 passengers and crew on the two trains.

Long Island Rail Road President Phillip Eng said the vehicle went around the grade crossing and was struck by the train that was leaving Westbury station. He said the gates at the crossing were properly functioning.

“The gates were down, the lights were flashing. We’ve confirmed that they were functioning,” he said. “Witnesses have said the vehicle went around the gates, at which point the train that was leaving, heading eastbound, and the vehicle collided.

A westbound train travelling toward Westbury then struck the vehicle, he said. The vehicle was pushed and that’s when the front two cars of the westbound train came off the rails, Eng said.

Local TV news helicopter video showed the train cars standing upright after the wreck, but with the forward cars off the rails. One end of one the trains struck a station platform, crushing part of it.

Many emergency vehicles were on the scene, including some ambulances. The doors of the train were open and firefighters and other emergency workers could be seen entering and moving through the cars. Service was suspended in both directions on the Ronkonkoma and Huntington/Port Jefferson branches.

Passenger Kiara Jackson told Newsday she heard the sound of metal dragging along the concrete platform.

“I knew something was wrong. We were in a panic,” Jackson said. “There was a screech and then there was a thud. They told us to walk westerly and there were two small fires. Smoke was kind of coming in so they told us to just keep walking.”

Another passenger, April Frazier, 31, of Brooklyn, was heading to Manhattan’s Penn Station.

“I was sitting on the left side and all of a sudden the train really started rocking hard,” Frazier told Newsday. “Flames flared up on my side. I heard the conductor yell ‘Brake, brake!’ That’s when I saw the flames.”

Tuesday night’s crash was the fifth incident at the crossing in the last 40 years, and the second involving a train hitting a vehicle, according to federal safety data. In the others, a person walking or standing on the tracks was hit by a train.

READ MORE: B.C. train that derailed and killed three ‘just started moving on its own’

READ MORE: Woman gets $2 million after 2014 train crash

As part of the LIRR expansion and modernization project, the railroad’s “A Modern LI” website said it planned to eliminate the School Street grade crossing, saying it “poses a safety risk to drivers, pedestrians and LIRR customers,” and replace it with a “two-way grade separated underpass.”

After a spike in deaths at railroad crossings in 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation launched a public awareness campaign with the slogan “Stop! Trains Can’t.” The Federal Railroad Administration developed a crossing-finder app and persuaded technology companies to add grade-crossing warnings to GPS devices and mapping applications.

In 2017, there were 2,115 grade-crossing crashes in the U.S., resulting in 271 deaths. That was the highest yearly grade-crossing death toll in a decade (2008 had 290).

Full-year data isn’t available for 2018.

The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Individuals chosen to begin ‘road to recovery’ at supportive housing facility

Orca Place at 222 Corfield St. is expected to open this summer

RCMP make arrest following break-in at Parksville’s Log Cabin General Store

Police credit tips from public for helping with case

Qualicum Beach craft beer festival to showcase local brews, spirits

Event will feature 20 Vancouver Island breweries and distilleries

Nanaimo, Lantzville, Parksville, Qualicum partner on studying child care needs

Union of B.C. Municipalities provides $125,000 grant

VIDEO: Killer whale steals fisherman’s catch off North Coast

Fishing duel results in eager orca snagging salmon in Prince Rupert

Child killed after being hit in driveway on Vancouver Island

The driver of the vehicle remained at the crash scene and is fully cooperating

Vancouver Island woman assaulted after confronting thief

RCMP warn residents to call for police assistance

Cat badly hurt in animal trap was likely stuck for days, B.C. owner says

Blu, a three-year-old house cat, suffered severe damage to his hind leg after being stuck in trap for days

Island Health issues safer drug-use tips ahead of music festival season

Health authority aims to reduce overdose risks at festivals

40 cats surrendered in apparent hoarding at B.C. home

Officers found the cats living among piles of garbage and feces, suffering from fleas

PHOTOS: North Island home gutted in fire deemed ‘suspicious’

No injuries reported; firefighters prevented blaze from spreading

Eating sandwiches, putting on makeup behind the wheel could land you a fine

RCMP say if you cause an accident while eating you could be penalized

Fate of accused in Canadian couple’s 1987 killings in jury’s hands

William Talbott’s lawyer says DNA doesn’t prove murder

Most Read