Commuter Train AccidentA fiery railway crash killed five train passengers and the female driver of a sport utility vehicle in New York this week. According to a federal investigator who performed a preliminary examination of evidence relating to the crash, the accident happened when the SUV stopped on the train tracks at a railway crossing. The investigator also indicated that the train was traveling under the speed limit and the train signals and traffic barriers were functioning properly at the time of the fatal collision.

Why Was the SUV on the Tracks?

In spite of the investigator's analysis, the central question surrounding this tragic event has yet to be answered. Why would a Mercedes SUV stop in the middle of the train tracks, and how did it get past the crossing barrier as the train was approaching?

The incident is the deadliest locomotive tragedy to happen in New York in over 30 years. According to witnesses, traffic was slow-moving and bumper to bumper at the time of the collision. The Mercedes SUV was stopped across the train tracks, when the crossing lights started to flash, sirens blared, and the crossing barrier lowered onto the SUV's rear window. The driver of the vehicle behind the SUV backed away and displayed hand gestures to indicate that the woman should back out of the train's path.

Driver Could Have Escaped on Foot

Strangely, the SUV driver had enough time to get out of her vehicle, look at the barrier across her rear window and then get back into her car. By all accounts, it appears that the woman had plenty of time to escape from danger on foot, but for some reason she did not.

Train recording data indicates that the train's engineer was driving the train at just under the 60 mile-an-hour speed limit, and that he activated the horn with two long blasts, one short blast, and two additional long blasts, which is customary. When the SUV did not move out of the way, the engineer activated the train's emergency brake and blew the horn again. Just as the SUV started to move forward, the train violently collided with it.

Fatal train accidents are not uncommon, and an estimated 250 people die from motor vehicle-related train collisions every year in the United States. Whenever an accident like this occurs, it is vital that authorities complete a detailed investigation into how it happened. Evidence from such investigations will support family members of those who were killed, as well as any non-fatally-injured parties, to pursue claims for restitution and justice in court.