3D laser scanned models of the Metro North train involved in last week's fiery crash are being made to help with the investigation. The scans will create virtual models of the train car. The models are being created to help investigators to continue to take measurements and look at things from different view points. Six people including a Danbury man were killed Tuesday night in Valhalla.
At least a dozen pieces of third rail pierced the rail car. National Transportation Safety Board vice chairman Robert Sumwalt was asked if anyone was killed or maimed by the third rail spears. Sumwalt says there's extensive fire damage, and pieces of the third rail are scattered through out the first car. Some are stacked up. Some go all the way up to the ceiling. One exited the first car, and penetrated rail car number two.
Investigators will create a diagram of where people were and collect information on their injuries to determine whether anyone was killed or maimed by the third rail spears.
The agency is looking at why the rare and unusually fiery instance of passenger deaths happened last week, among the thousands of train-auto collisions each year. To transportation lawyer Andrew Maloney, the third rail "is probably the most important issue in the accident." The design could have caused the shoe to act like a crowbar, said Maloney, who represents victims of a 2013 Metro-North derailment.
A railroad expert noted that the "under-running" design has been used for decades because it's a way to avoid problems with ice building up on top of the third rail. It also reduces the possibility of inadvertent, and possibly fatal, contact with the third rail.
The railroad crossing had undergone a number of upgrades in recent years to reduce the risk of accidents, including the installation of brighter LED lights, "Do Not Stop on the Tracks" signs and new traffic signal control equipment. A 2009 plan to install a third set of flashing lights 100 to 200 feet up the road to give motorists a few seconds' extra warning was never carried out, for reasons officials were unable to explain.
The train engineer, whose name was not released, pulled the emergency brake four seconds before the collision, slowing the train from 58 mph to 48 mph when it hit the SUV. Then, in the smoke and flames, he carried to safety an injured passenger who couldn't walk. Sumwalt says the engineer was "very professional" during the disaster and is now "very traumatized."