NTSB faults SUV driver in fatal Metro-North train collision

- The NTSB has concluded Metro-North Railroad is not to blame for the Valhalla, New York, train crash two and a half years ago. The investigation said the probable cause of the accident was the driver of an SUV that was on the tracks.

While engineers admitted certain factors contributed to the severity of the accident, they said none of it would have happened if the driver followed railroad crossing warnings.

At an NTSB hearing in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, engineers insisted the Commerce Street railroad crossing was in compliance with federal and state law.

On February 3, 2015, Ellen Brody was driving to meet a client. An accident on the Taconic State Parkway detoured traffic.

Investigators said Brody made a right onto Commerce Street to try and get around the accident. Instead, she ended up on the wrong side of the railroad crossing gates. One gate hit the back of her SUV, and she got out to investigate. Brody then got back in her car and drove forward into the path of an oncoming train.

Brody and five people on the train were killed.

Investigators said the third rail, which powers the train and runs on top of the tracks, also contributed to the death toll. The collision ripped up about 350 feet of third rail and penetrated through the first passenger car in one long piece. The NTSB said the lack of controlled failure mechanism in the third rail could be a safety issue. It recommended railways that use third rails evaluate its grade crossings.

The NTSB did acknowledge two preemption systems set in order to clear traffic when a train is coming were not up to code at the Commerce Street Crossing the night of the deadly accident. But the NTSB said that did not contribute to the crash.

Ellen Brody's husband, Alan Brody, attended the hearing. He is suing the MTA.

"I've paid the price. I've lost my beloved wife, she was a wonderful woman," Brody told Fox 5 News. "I want the public to know not only is she a victim, but she could be any woman."

MTA responded to the meeting with a statement which reads in part, "We appreciate the thorough investigation performed by the National Transportation Safety Board, which found that no action or inaction on the part of Metro-North Railroad contributed to the cause of the accident."

NTSB investigators also ruled out any fatigue, cell phone use, or substance abuse during the accident. 

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