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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 the Feb. 3, 2015, 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 the Feb. 3, 2015, 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
Six people were killed two years ago on Friday during the deadliest crash in Metro-North history at a railroad crossing in Valhalla.
Six people were killed two years ago on Friday during the deadliest crash in Metro-North history at a railroad crossing in Valhalla. Photo Credit: Daily Voice file
Assemblyman Tom Abinanti and state Sen. David Carlucci held a news conference last spring at the Commerce Street railroad crossing in Valhalla, site of the fatal Metro-North accident. They were joined by Alan Brody, whose 49-year-old wife was killed.
Assemblyman Tom Abinanti and state Sen. David Carlucci held a news conference last spring at the Commerce Street railroad crossing in Valhalla, site of the fatal Metro-North accident. They were joined by Alan Brody, whose 49-year-old wife was killed. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
Metropolitan Transportation Authority crews worked on a crossing gate on Friday, Jan. 27. A Metro-North spokesman said it may have been damaged by a motorist at the Commerce Street crossing in Valhalla.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority crews worked on a crossing gate on Friday, Jan. 27. A Metro-North spokesman said it may have been damaged by a motorist at the Commerce Street crossing in Valhalla. Photo Credit: Jon Craig

VALHALLA, N.Y. -- Two years ago on Friday 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. More about the passengers killed can be found by clicking here.

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 .

No new federal documents have been filed since December 2015, according to the NTSB docket, which can be found by clicking here.

On Wednesday, Eric M. Weiss, a spokesman for the NTSB, said an update on its investigation could be expected "in the spring."

A year ago, 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.”

During the past year, state and federal legislators secured money to study rail crossings like the one in Valhalla in hopes of eventually installing upgraded signals, gates or other safety devices.

Brody's husband, Alan, is not surprised that little has been done to improve safety at Commerce Street. "No news just yet but there is likely to be something quite soon," Brody said on Friday.

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