LIRR engineer saved passenger from being crushed, police say

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(FOX 5 NY)

Crews are working in the mangled, charred mess of the aftermath of a vehicle that unsuccessfully tried to go around a railroad gate in Westbury. The truck collided with two trains traveling in opposite directions, according to a witness. The driver and two passengers died upon impact.

"Why folks try to risk their lives and other people's lives, perhaps to save a few minutes, is [a question] I can't answer," said Phillip Eng, the president of the Long Island Rail Road.

The westbound train that was headed from Ronkonkoma to Penn Station spent Wednesday wedged up against the Westbury platform as crews worked to re-rail the damaged cars. The train, traveling up to 80 mph, crashed into the concrete platform, officials said, causing extensive damage to the first two cars and the third rail.

Luckily, just seven people out of nearly a thousand on board both trains only suffered minor injuries. Officials said the crash could've been much worse. An engineer's quick thinking to abandon his place at the controls and save a passenger with him is why they're alive, officials said.

"It was completely destroyed, the front cab, concrete, rebar inside that front cab area several seats deep," Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said. "The engineer went running backwards as the concrete's coming through the front of the train and then along with the passenger, they were both trapped."

The School Street grade crossing where the crash occurred is one of seven that will be eliminated after the completion of the LIRR's third track project. The number of these types of incidents in 2017 was 17. In 2018, it had fallen to just seven. But even one, officials said, is too many.

"We cannot repeat this enough: please do not try to beat the train," County Executive Laura Curran said. "There's nothing so important. And I think we saw that with very stark clarity last night."

The LIRR said the lights and warnings were all working at the time of the crash.

Re-railing the damaged cars will resume after the Wednesday evening rush hour and continue through the night.