New York train wreck cost $3.7M in damages

The deadly collision between a commuter train and an SUV in Westchester County caused $3.7 million in damage to the Metro-North Railroad, federal investigators said in a preliminary report released Monday which contained new details but came short of putting down to rest major questions about the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary report into the Feb. 3 crash said, about 480 feet of third rail was damaged, along with the lead railcar. However, the report didn’t address issues such as why the SUV wound up on the railroad tracks before the collision, or how safety at crossings might be improved.

The Metro-North train collided into a Mercedes SUV at a grade crossing in Valhalla, sparking an explosion and fire that scorched the first car of the train and sent pieces of the third rail stabbing through the passenger area. Five of the train’s passengers and the driver of the SUV were killed.

"Witnesses reported the driver of the SUV as being stopped in the crossing prior to the gates lowering," the report 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."

The train, which was traveling at 58 miles per hour before the emergency brakes were applied, slowed to 49 mph over the course of four seconds before it crashed into the SUV, the report said. An estimated 650 passengers were aboard the train at the time of the accident, with 20 of those riders in the lead car.

The train and the SUV continued north, causing the electrified third rail that powers Metro-North in this section of the system’s Harlem Line to detach.