MOUNT PLEASANT, N.Y.— A crowded New York commuter train struck a car near suburban White Plains during Tuesday evening’s rush period, sparking an explosion and a fire and killing at least seven people, media reported.
“There are at least 12 serious injuries,” the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said in a statement, which added that driver of the car and several train passengers were among the dead. The MTA said the accident occurred at 6:30 pm, when the train struck a black Jeep Cherokee that was on the tracks.
The train was carrying hundreds of commuters, and a car was crushed onto the front of the train, which was partially destroyed, Reuters witnesses said.
The witnesses said emergency workers were seen carrying someone off the train on a stretcher at 9:45 p.m. local time as dozens of fire and police vehicles flooded the area with lights.
Media reported that at least five people on the train were killed.
MTA said 400 riders from the eight-car train were taken to a local rock-climbing gym for shelter. Average ridership on the train is 650 people, MTA said.
The media reports said the driver of the car got out briefly to try to push it off the tracks, then got back into the car before it was hit by the train.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was heading to the scene, his press office said.
Paul DeLaurentis, a CBS radio employee, said in an interview with 1010 WINS radio station that he was on the train, in the third or fourth car.
“We didn’t feel the impact at all. There was nothing that would make you turn your head or sit up and say what was that,” DeLaurentis said.
But within a few minutes people started coming into his car from the front carriages and people started smashing emergency windows and smoke started pouring in, he said.
“The smoke was coming both from the inside and from the outside.”
Amid the confusion, passengers did not know what to do until emergency responders arrived, DeLaurentis said. Eventually passengers were guided off the train – they set up a ladder at one end of the train to help people off – and it was only then that he looked back and saw how bad it was.
“Just flames shooting out, bright orange flames, dark smoke.”
The accident involved a train heading out of New York City on the Harlem Line. Service was suspended on a segment of the line between North White Plains and Pleasantville, the Metro-North Railroad service said.
Roads were closed for many blocks around the site, and the entire area was lit with lights from emergency and police vehicles.
The Mount Pleasant Police Department, which responded to the accident about 30 miles (48 km) northeast of New York City, did not immediately provide information on injuries or fatalities.
The Harlem Line train runs from Grand Central Terminal in midtown Manhattan to Wassaic in southeast New York state.