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Fatal Crash Revives Metro North Safety Concerns

On Monday, February 1, 2016, a teenager was struck and killed by a Metro North train passing through the Bronx at about 3:30 p.m. According to News 12 Westchester, the victim was the second Fordham Prep high school student killed by a train in two weeks. The accident, which wreaked havoc on the evening commute, occurred on the very day that government officials met to discuss safety measures to be put in place after the Harlem Line crash in Valhalla nearly a year ago — February 3, 2015 — that killed six people.

Regarding the recent Bronx accident, MTA officials stated the teen was trespassing on the tracks, but, as of this writing, further details are not available. In the 2015 Valhalla crash, a driver, Ellen Brody, had gotten out of her Jeep Cherokee after the gates had come down on top of the vehicle, then got back into the vehicle and moved it forward onto the tracks. The Jeep apparently became stuck on the tracks, where it was struck by the approaching train just after 6:30 p.m. The struck vehicle caught fire as the train pushed it about ten car-lengths up the track.

One year after the Valhalla crash, no changes have been made at that crossing despite the federal government allocating $350 million for improvements and $6.5 million for a public awareness campaign. The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the crash and may make recommendations when it issues its final report.

Railroad tracks and crossings are inherently dangerous, and courts are not shy about pinning responsibility for a mishap on the person crossing the track. As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in 1927, “When a man goes upon a railroad track he knows that he goes to a place where he will be killed if a train comes upon him before he is clear of the track. He knows that he must stop for the train, not the train stop for him.” Baltimore & Ohio R. Co. v. Goodman, 275 U.S. 66, 69-70 (1927).

Standards have changed since Holmes’ time; technology has improved crossing signals, and the law has extended a defendant’s duty of care to trespassers in many types of cases. But what has not changed is a train’s inability to stop in time to avoid hitting a person or object on the track.

Barasch McGarry Salzman & Penson urges commuters and pedestrians to exercise the utmost care at railroad crossings. If you or a loved one suffers a serious injury or wrongful death due to railroad negligence, call us at 888.746.8212 or contact our firm online to schedule a free consultation.

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