BRENTWOOD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Two people were killed Tuesday after a Long Island Rail Road equipment train struck their car at a crossing in Brentwood, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said.
Investigators spent the day looking into whether the vehicle went around the crossing gates.
The incident took place shortly after 10 a.m.
The equipment train was heading east when it hit the Nissan Altima at the Second Avenue crossing. The two people inside the car were killed instantly, CBS 2′s Carolyn Gusoff reported. The car was left unrecognizable.
The train had no passengers and was taking equipment back to the yard. Officials said it was traveling at the maximum allowable speed for a train making no stops – close to 80 mph.
Photos and video from the scene show the car in flames after being struck.
Twitter user @NovusDeum posted the following dramatic photograph of the aftermath of the incident.
The train engineer tried to stop, according to MTA officials.
“As he approached the crossing, he witnessed the vehicle go around the lowered gates. He put the train into emergency brake, sounded his horn. That’s when he struck the vehicle,” MTA Police Chief Neil Boyle told reporters. “The vehicle then was pushed approximately half a mile.”
MTA officials said they’ll check computer records for the exact gate position, but a second witness also saw the closed gates at the crossing and a source said the driver was seen on a cell phone, CBS 2′s Gusoff reported.
Video courtesy of Gil Tucker:
The driver of the car tried to beat the train by driving around the gates, MTA police told WCBS 880′s Sophia Hall.
“We believe the vehicle was going around the gate. The gate was in the closed position,” said Assistant MTA Police Chief Thomas Odessa.
The train also caught fire and its three-member crew managed to escape. MTA officials said they are shaken up but uninjured.
Morning commuters said they were shocked by what they witnessed.
“I saw like the flames up in smoke and the train being incinerated and I saw the policemen, the firemen come and try to save people,” one woman said.
Eastbound service resumed hours later on the Ronkonkoma line. However, there was to be no westbound service Tuesday evening. The MTA was providing buses for commuters.