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Schumer, Blumenthal Call For Swift Probe Into Third Rail In Train Crash

First responders at the scene on Commerce Street in Valhalla where a Metro-North train hit a SUV Tuesday night.
First responders at the scene on Commerce Street in Valhalla where a Metro-North train hit a SUV Tuesday night. Photo Credit: Jon Craig

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) are calling for a swift and thorough investigation into the collision between a Metro-North train and a car that killed six people and injured 15 more in Valhalla on Tuesday night.

Blumenthal and Schumer said they have both been in contact with investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Early findings of the investigation indicate that the train was traveling within the speed limit at around 58 mph, and that it pushed the car upon impact, causing a live third rail to go up into the bottom of the first train car and contribute to a “fierce” fire, Schumer said.

“It’s too early to point the finger,” Schumer said.

One of the focal points of the investigation needs to examine what caused the third rail to travel up and into the bottom of the train car.

“This incident is highly unusual, and we need to know what happened,” he said.

“At this point there are more questions than answers. What we need are answers right away, immediately, not at some distant point in the future,” Blumenthal said.

He said that it should not take as long as recent investigations into crashes in Bridgeport and the Bronx.

The crash may have been preventable through “right equipment functioning properly, the right behavior on the part of the driver of the car, the driver of the train and others involved,” Blumenthal said.

“This is exactly what rail safety protocols and procedures, as well as investment in infrastructure, were designed to prevent,” Blumenthal said.

Schumer said he has a great deal of faith and confidence in the NTSB, which is leading the investigation and is an independent organization. He said he wants the investigation to be thorough and not to cut corners. He said he has heard talk that the railroad crossing was not properly illuminated, and has asked the NTSB to look into that but it has not been confirmed.

Blumenthal said an incident like this “undermines public trust and confidence in railroads and reminds us the need for continued progress in safety.”

The senators also touched on the Operation Deep Dive investigation that was released last year, which concluded that Metro-North has traditionally favored on-time performance over safety and infrastructure. Blumenthal said Metro-North’s compliance with FRA guidelines and NTSB recommendations are a major issue, and may be the subject of hearings before the Senate Commerce Committee.

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