Authorities investigating a Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) commuter train crash Tuesday night that killed three people and injured several others say a car was trying to beat the gate when it was struck by two trains traveling in opposite directions.
The three people killed in the crash were all occupants of the car that drove around the lowered gates at a grade crossing near the Westbury station. Long Island Rail Road president Phillip Eng confirmed that the gates were lowered and the lights were flashing when the car attempted to cross the tracks.
Authorities said an eastbound train struck the car first, pushing it into the path of a westbound train, which was traveling full speed. The car was crushed and torn to pieces between and underneath the moving trains. The collision triggered a fire on both trains, forcing passengers to flee cars that were filling up with smoke.
After the initial impact, the westbound train, which was carrying about 200 people, derailed and continued to travel half a mile before it crashed into the concrete platform at the Westbury station. Commissioner Patrick Ryder of the Nassau County Police told The New York Times that chunks of concrete from 30 yards of the station’s north platform entered the train.
Rescuers were able to get all passengers off the train safely. Several passengers were treated for minor injuries.
Mr. Eng reiterated warnings to motorists who circumvent crossing gates and try to cross instead of waiting for the train to pass.
“You’re not only taking your own life into your hands, but you’re taking the lives of others into your own hands: our engineers, our conductors, our customers and anyone else along the local road. It’s unfortunate,” Mr. Eng said.
“This is a very tragic, cautionary tale, that you just don’t try to beat the train,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran told the press.
In 2015, a crowded Metro-North commuter train passing through Westchester County during rush hour collided with an SUV idling on the tracks at a crossing. That train crash killed seven people.
According to The New York Times, over the last decade crashes at railroad crossings have occurred in New York “with surprising regularity.” Yet, at the same time, the number of accidents and fatalities at railroad crossings has fallen nationally, as crossings intersecting roads have been eliminated and other safety improvements implemented.