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Clues Sought in Deadly NY Train Crash

Emergency personnel work at the scene of a Metro-North Railroad passenger train and vehicle accident in Valhalla, N.Y., Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015.

Investigators examining the circumstances of a New York commuter train accident that killed six people said on Wednesday they were collecting recording devices from the site where the train hit a vehicle stalled on the tracks in the railroad's worst-ever accident.

Fifteen other people were injured, including seven in very serious condition, according to updates from the office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The collision occurred Tuesday evening about 20 kilometers north of New York as the Metro-North Railroad train was headed to the small town of Wassaic.

An earlier traffic accident in the area had diverted a number of vehicles toward the crossing where the accident happened, according to Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive.

Authorities say the sport utility vehicle had gotten stuck on the tracks after going through a railway crossing. The train pushed the car about 10 train lengths before both vehicles caught fire.

"Apparently the gate went down on the car and she got out to put the gate up and at that point got back in the car to drive away," Astorino told reporters on Wednesday.

Astorino said he has considered the road there as dangerous, echoing complaints made by other local residents.

"This is a truly ugly and brutal sight," Governor Cuomo told reporters after visiting the scene in Valhalla, some 20 miles (32 km) north of New York City. "The third rail of the track came up from the explosion and went right through the (rail) car, it's a devastatingly ugly situation."

"It's actually amazing that not more people were hurt on that train," Cuomo added.

The third rail, which carries 750 volts of direct current, tore through the floor of the first car of the train, charring the carriage and sending billows of smoke into the air. Damage to the other seven cars was minimal.

Hundreds of passengers from the eight-car train were taken to a rock-climbing gym for shelter, authorities said.

Wednesday delays

The crash also meant that thousands of commuters faced a snarled journey to work on Wednesday morning.

MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said roughly 45,000 riders take the Metro-North Railroad's Harlem Line on an average weekday, about 14,000 of whom board north of where the crash occurred and would be directly affected.

Parts of the line would stay closed on Wednesday, according to the MTA, which was arranging for shuttle buses to fill the gap and warned of crowding and delays.

Affluent commuters

Some 650 passengers regularly take the train, which carries commuters through affluent New York City suburbs such as Westchester County, one of the richest in the United States.

Westchester is home to many bankers, doctors and corporate lawyers, boasts a median household income of roughly $82,000, and houses the headquarters of major companies, including IBM and PepsiCo Inc.

Metro-North crashes

The Metro-North Railroad has been plagued by a series of crashes in recent years, including a derailment in 2013 that left four commuters dead. A report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board last year was highly critical of the rail line, which carries hundreds of thousands of commuters daily between New York and Connecticut.

Portions of this report are from Reuters.

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