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Deadliest Metro-North Crash Claimed, Changed Lives, But Crossing Unchanged

The scene at Commerce Street in Valhalla where a Metro-North train collided with a Mercedes SUV on Feb. 3, 2015, killing the car's driver, Ellen Brody of Edgemont, and five train passengers.
The scene at Commerce Street in Valhalla where a Metro-North train collided with a Mercedes SUV on Feb. 3, 2015, killing the car's driver, Ellen Brody of Edgemont, and five train passengers. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
Most of the attention, and blame, for last February's fatal Metro-North train crash has focused on Ellen Brody, whose Mercedes SUV was on the tracks when the train collided with her car. Brody, 49, of Edgemont was killed along with five passengers.
Most of the attention, and blame, for last February's fatal Metro-North train crash has focused on Ellen Brody, whose Mercedes SUV was on the tracks when the train collided with her car. Brody, 49, of Edgemont was killed along with five passengers. Photo Credit: Screenshot NBC Today Show

VALHALLA, N.Y. -- A year ago on Wednesday at a Westchester railroad crossing, a few fateful minutes changed the lives of hundreds of Metro-North commuters and ended with six people dead.

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino called it "a day we never want to deal with."

Ellen Brody, 49, of Edgemont had left her job in Chappaqua before encountering a traffic jam along the Taconic State Parkway in Mount Pleasant that followed a head-on collision. Brody was unfamiliar with the dark, narrow roads that crisscross the Taconic and railroad tracks in Valhalla.

As bumper-to-bumper traffic was detoured over railroad tracks at Commerce Street, Brody briefly stepped out of her Mercedes SUV to check a crossing gate that came down on the rear of her car raising new questions about the crash.

Also killed in the 6:30 p.m. collision on Feb. 3, 2015, were: Bedford Hills residents Eric Vandercar, 53, and Walter Liedtke, 69; New Castle residents Robert Dirks, 36, and Joseph Nadol, 42; and Aditya Tomar, 41, of Danbury, Conn.

Rick Hope of Yorktown Heights said he motioned for Brody to back up only to watch her return to her car and pull forward, just as a northbound train passed. The Mercedes was pierced by the third rail which also pierced the front railcars, setting them on fire.

Nearly 200 people were impacted by the crash, prompting dozens of lawsuits against Metro-North and New York state.

Public records and findings from a year-long investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board can be found online here .

Gary Holmes, director of communications for the state Department of Transportation, said, “The NTSB has said the rail crossing functioned as designed. Further enhancements at this crossing – and others – are possible based on NTSB recommendations following the final report.”

Brody's husband, Alan, is not surprised that nothing has been done to improve safety at Commerce Street, calling it "a crime against humanity. ... If these so-called officials think they can hide under little chairs or behind arcane rules, they are sorely mistaken."

Coming this week in Daily Voice: Profiles of the victims of the Metro-North railroad crash, more from the husband of SUV driver Ellen Brody, and an update on the NTSB investigation.

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