Rail design led to deadliness of NY train crash — APNewsBreak

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- The NTSB has concluded Metro-North Railroad is not to blame for the Valhalla, New York, train crash two and a half years ago.

Ellen Brody's SUV was crushed by a Metro-North Railroad train in Valhalla, N.Y.

"Staff spent considerable time trying to understand motivations and found many of these facts unknowable because she perished in this accident", said Robert Hall, NTSB Investigator.

"We examined every possible situation and circumstance, and we could not arrive at a definite conclusion", Sumwalt said at a meeting in Washington.

Witnesses said Brody calmly got out of her vehicle after the crossing gates came down around her and hit her auto.

Five of the dead were passengers in the front vehicle of the Metro North train.

Investigators found that warning gates and lights worked properly. Ultimately, it is up to drivers to be aware of their surroundings as they approach a rail crossing. Investigators interviewed the driver's husband, Alan Brody, about issues like her sleep habits and her state of mind.

After hearing from the AP about the NTSB's findings, he noted Monday that courts also are being asked to weigh the crash and its causes.

"How can that be?"

In Connecticut, Metro-North tracks are not powered by a third rail, but are instead powered by what's known as a "catenary system".

One of the chief questions became, "Why did the third rail penetrate the rail cars during the accident, without breaking away?" said Dr. Xiaohu Liu, a transportation safety board analyst at the hearing.

But the board did acknowledge that an unusual rail design contributed to the death toll. In its findings, the NTSB warned that continued use of current third rail system could increase serious injuries at grade crossing accidents. The town was weighing whether to close the crossing altogether. The Safety Board did recommend that Metro-North take measures to reduce risk of severe accidents involving the third rail at grade crossings.

The Associated Press, relying on information from an official briefed on the NTSB's findings, reported Monday that investigators had also raised concerns with the unusual third rail design in which power is transferred to the train via a metal shoe riding beneath the powered rail. "They (officials) didn't lose anyone".

The extensive investigation focused on several factors, including signals at the crossing, the train engineer and Ms. Brody's actions.

"There is a lesson drivers must learn, a lesson that has tragically been taught time and time again".

"Unfortunately for those looking for answers, sometimes we can not absolutely explain human behavior, especially when we don't have that person to talk to, " Robert L. Sumwalt, the acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said during the board hearing in Washington to determine the cause.

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