A witness has told Nassau County police that the vehicle at the center of a fatal Long Island Rail Road crash may have been on the tracks because it was fleeing another crash.
On Tuesday night, authorities say that a vehicle apparently tried to "beat the gate" at a grade crossing by the Westbury station. The vehicle was then struck by a train, carrying 800 people, going eastbound that just left the station, then was hit by a westbound train carrying approximately 200 people. The westbound LIRR train's first two cars derailed, sending some passengers flying. A fire also broke out on the westbound train.
A train passenger described the chaos: "I knew something was wrong. We were in a panic. There was a screech and then there was a thud. They told us to walk westerly and there were two small fires. Smoke was kind of coming in so they told us to just keep walking."
The vehicle was crushed and the three occupants were all killed, while seven people on the trains were injured. One of the injured is a train engineer who was "severely" injured after being trapped in debris.
Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder told reporters on Wednesday, "The witness said that individual was involved in an accident and then went around the gate." The driver and the passengers have not been identified yet.
The MTA says while "crews [are] working around the clock to rerail damaged train cars and repair damaged track," there are service changes on the Long Island Rail Road during the Wednesday evening commute. They are as follows:
Long Island Rail Road plans to operate the Port Jefferson Branch and Ronkonkoma Branch on a reduced evening rush hour schedule. The railroad will boost service on the Babylon Branch by adding four additional trains during this time.
On the Port Jefferson and Ronkonkoma Branches, the LIRR plans to cancel 12 eastbound trains. The specific trains to be cancelled will be announced by the LIRR service alerts on MYmta app, mta.info website, email, text, and social media, as well as announcements at stations. The list of cancelled trains follows within this press release. Westbound (reverse-peak) service on those branches will remain suspended.
With the potential for crowding and delays on the Port Jefferson and Ronkonkoma Branches, the LIRR continues to encourage customers to travel via alternate branches if possible, including the Babylon, Montauk, Oyster Bay and Hempstead Branches.
For this PM rush hour, the LIRR has increased the frequency of trains stopping at Hicksville Station. All Port Jefferson trains will make all stops New Hyde Park through Port Jefferson. All Patchogue trains will make all stops to Patchogue, Speonk trains will make all stops to Speonk, and Montauk trains will make all stops to Montauk.
These trains will not operate on Wednesday, February 27.
Port Jefferson Branch
The 2:29 p.m. train from Penn due in Hicksville at 3:17 p.m.
The 3:27 p.m. train from Penn due Huntington at 4:35p.m.
The 4:00 p.m. train from Penn due Huntington at 5:07p.m. 2354/2064
The 5:29 p.m. train from Atlantic Terminal due in Huntington at 6:28 p.m.
The 5:33 p.m. train from Penn due in Cold Spring Harbor at 6:46 p.m.
The 5:46 p.m. train from Penn due in Huntington art 6:51 p.m.
The 6:01 p.m. train from Penn due in Hicksville at 6:45 p.m.
The 6:30 p.m. train from Penn due in Huntington at 7:32 p.m.
The 6:35 p.m. train from Penn due in Hicksville at 7:22 p.m.
The 3:07 p.m. train from Penn Station due in Ronkonkoma at 4:25 p.m.
The 4:54 p.m. train from Penn Station due in Farmingdale at 5:56 p.m.
The 6:53 p.m. train from Penn Station due in Ronkonkoma at 8:12 p.m.
Crews found "extensive damage to infrastructure including rails, signal equipment and third rail underneath the train that remains at the scene," according to the MTA, which adds that more damage may be discovered when the other train cars are removed. Changes to the Thursday morning commute are yet to be determined.