A crash between a commuter train and an SUV at a railroad crossing north of Valhalla, New York (NY), seriously injured a dozen train passengers and led to the deaths of seven people. Six of the dead were riding the Metro-North Railroad train away from New York City when the collision occurred at a crossing near the Commerce Street station. The driver of the SUV also lost her life in the collision and resulting fire, which occurred during evening rush hour on February 3, 2025.
The New York Times reported that "according to preliminary information, the gates at the crossing came down on top of the S.U.V, which had stopped on the tracks . . . . The driver got out of the vehicle to look at the rear of the car, then got back in and drove forward. Then the vehicle was struck." It remains unclear whether the driver intentionally tried to beat the train across the tracks or got trapped by guard arms that lowered unexpectedly.
The Times also mentioned a fatal commuter rail accident involving a Long Island Rail Road train that occurred on January 7, 2015. The investigation into that earlier accident in which an engineer suffered injuries and a livery cab passenger died continues. In both instances, officials from the National Transportation Safety Board, state police and federal railroad and worker safety agencies must determine what errors occurred, as well as how to prevent future dangerous situations.
Possible explanations include impatient and distracted drivers, fatigued or negligent engineers, malfunctioning safety equipment such as gates that lowered too quickly or slowly, speeding by the trains, and poor track maintenance that made clearing the crossing difficult for cars and trucks. Whatever investigators find, the passengers killed in both Metro New York train crashes most likely died in preventable accidents -- and corrective action will almost definitely be indicated.
My Virginia-based personal injury and wrongful death attorney colleagues and I specialize in helping victims of accidents involving trains. We know that even the smallest mistakes and malfunctions can lead to tragedy. The best result from these terrible commuter rail crashes will be that similar problems do not recur.