Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby LastStopValhalla » Thu Jan 03, 2019 10:19 pm

It is insulting to allege that Steven Smalls, Jr. did anything wrong. He was nothing but professional during this incident, and in some respects went above and beyond, at the risk of his safety, and possibly life, to help evacuate Car 4333.

From just what we know- and there is probably more- these were his actions that night.

He was in contact with Conductor Larkin the entire time, and properly declared an emergency to rail traffic control.
As soon as the train stopped, he emerged from the engineer's compartment and justifiably ordered everyone out of the head car.
He guided many passengers to the exits, and along with some other passengers, physically assisted those that could not evacuate on their own. Stories recount that he even carried one or two on his back to the door, where they were passed down to ambulatory passengers.
He attempted to search car 4333 after it was evacuated, knowing that at least two out of the five fatalities (Walter Liedtke and an unknown victim, not Eric Vandercar) were possibly still alive, before being driven out of the car by intense heat and choking smoke.
Smalls then climbed into the second car, 4332, and attempted in vain to force the rear barrel door and save Walter Liedtke, who was seated in the back row. [Liedtke suffered a fatal brain hemorrhage when he was struck in the head by debris. He was near death, if not already deceased at that point]
Despite smoke inhalation and non-critical burns, Smalls stayed near the train, and along with Conductor Larkin, assisted the responders with the initial incident size-up. Smalls was among the last to go to Westchester Medical Center, arriving there nearly 2 hours after the collision.

Many times, unfortunately, a collision can be career ending for train crew members, even when, as in this case, they did everything by the book and more.

I know not everyone has read the NTSB docket and final Railroad Accident Report, but a lot of the opposing claims are complete BS, and can be disproved by the official, objective evidence within.

No, the train could not have stopped sooner. Smalls saw Ellen Brody pulling into the grade crossing and immediately engaged the emergency brake.
The speed of Train 659 was within regulations, and prudent for the conditions at the time.
All gates and flashers were functional at the crossing, and all required road signs and markers were appropriately placed.
That just leaves human failure on the part of the driver who, "for undetermined reasons" as the NTSB said, was distracted and/or disoriented up until the time the gate first hit her SUV. I can accept that scenario as a plausible, though serious, and not necessarily fatal, error. What is incomprehensible to me, is how did that distraction/ disorientation lead to pulling forward into the crossing? We will never know.
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby Backshophoss » Fri Jan 04, 2019 1:31 am

Have they finally closed that grade crossing and parkway exit??
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby DutchRailnut » Fri Jan 04, 2019 7:34 am

no and unless a replacement (crossing or viaduct) is built it won't be closed, as roads are at capacity at certain times.

and again the crossing does meet all requirements of FRA and NYSDOT for distances, sight lines , signage with zero exemptions.
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby EuroStar » Fri Jan 04, 2019 8:50 am

I am surprised that even after such a serious accident, there have been no calls for grade separation in the area of some sort. I am not advocating for grade separation. I am just surprised because in this day and age one expects that at least one not well informed politician would have called for it already.
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby Ridgefielder » Fri Jan 04, 2019 9:27 am

EuroStar wrote:I am surprised that even after such a serious accident, there have been no calls for grade separation in the area of some sort. I am not advocating for grade separation. I am just surprised because in this day and age one expects that at least one not well informed politician would have called for it already.

I take it you're not familiar with the area. Here are some pictures.

Taconic Parkway, southbound, at the Commerce Street intersection: https://goo.gl/maps/Byrqxb4pgdF2

Looking west on Commerce Street toward the crossing: https://goo.gl/maps/JYSZiEKjwRT2

Looking east on Commerce Street toward the crossing and the Taconic: https://goo.gl/maps/YbDTR24rAx52

Looking west on Commerce Street from the east side of the Taconic: https://goo.gl/maps/Fq77RbpS9k72

Aerial view: https://goo.gl/maps/7y37DzRGRh52

Engineering a grade separation at this area would be a difficult engineering problem. It's further complicated by the fact that everything on the west side of the tracks here is consecrated ground.
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby DutchRailnut » Fri Jan 04, 2019 9:44 am

east side is protected river.

and local taxpayers are really not fond of footing bill to prevent restricted thinking visitors from hurting themselves.
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby Backshophoss » Fri Jan 04, 2019 10:09 pm

There's only the monument company and the cemetery office/maintance yard/compost heap, that can be reached by backtracking from
town. That crossing needs to be closed off or history will be repeated in the future!
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby Head-end View » Fri Jan 04, 2019 10:32 pm

Dutch and LastStopValhalla, thanks for your posts regarding Engineer Smalls. I'm very sorry to hear how badly he has been affected by this accident. Especially since he did his job and went above and beyond in the minutes after the crash. I hope he will be able to heal and resume a better quality-of-life in the near future.
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby LastStopValhalla » Sat Jan 05, 2019 5:17 pm

Backshophoss wrote:That crossing needs to be closed off or history will be repeated in the future!


The only known "history" besides the 2/3/15 incident, happened in 1984, when a cargo van tied to beat a train and was struck, critically injuring the driver, who died in the hospital about 2 weeks later.

There has been nothing else reportable to the FRA at Commerce Street- except for trespasser fatalities in the area- in the period since 1975, as far back as their online rail accident database covers.

There are also no known news stories from before that date in The New York Times, or the papers that became The Journal News, reporting a crossing collision.

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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby DutchRailnut » Sat Jan 05, 2019 5:37 pm

the crossing is not as unsafe as people report, and your short on incidents there proves it , a lot of rhetoric from people without a clue is what keeps these forums lets just say revealing .
facts are here : https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms/search/hitl ... 4JJQbJumEw
and sure as * not at the so called internet specialist that keep posting their nonsense.
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby Jeff Smith » Sat Jan 05, 2019 6:15 pm

DutchRailnut wrote:<snip> and sure as * not at the so called internet specialist that keep posting their nonsense.


Just to clarify: I just update the thread with news.
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby DutchRailnut » Sat Jan 05, 2019 6:50 pm

News as should NTSB know ?
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby Jeff Smith » Sun Jan 06, 2019 1:47 pm

Really? Jaap it’s current events. It’s not over. It’s worthy of discussion, whether you agree with the actual subject matter or not. I support Mr. Smalls, and the NTSB report is clear. I think he should counter-sue for defamation.

I get a news alert on a railroad topic on an item of importance and I post it to inform and for discussion. Which it’s generating. That’s the point of the forum.
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