COMMACK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The heartbroken relatives of the victims of Tuesday’s deadly crash on the Long Island Rail Road spoke out Thursday.
The family of Blanca Maldonado is heartsick.
The Commack mother of three was driving her recently-retired father to update his medical insurance when their car was incinerated by an LIRR train.
Moments before the crash, Maldonado’s husband spoke to her on the phone. He said she always used speakerphone and obeyed traffic laws.
“She had no rush to go anywhere. She was calm and she was driving. She was a very good driver,” Dr. Luis Maldonado told CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff on Thursday.
The equipment train barreled down the tracks at the legal speed of 80 mph and crashed into her car, which erupted into flames.
Among the victims was Blanca Maldonado’s father, 73-year-old old Jose Reyes.
Three children have now lost a mother and grandfather. The family said it’s hard enough to bear the loss. There are also painful questions.
“When the bars are up that means you can go ahead, right? So I think she was going ahead,” Luis Maldonado tearfully said.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said the gates at the Brentwood crossing were down and lights were flashing.
The engineer said he saw the Nissan Altima go around the gates. A witness said the same, adding the driver appeared to be on the phone.
All of it flies in the face of what Blanca Maldonado’s family knows of her.
“To beat the train — that’s not her at all. She was too cautious and she was not going to risk her life and leave a little daughter or to kill her father as well,” Luis Maldonado said.
“If somebody saw the accident, please do contact us because we need to know. I don’t know what happened,” said the victim’s brother-in-law, Charles Aviles.
The office of Dr. Nick Martin overlooks the tracks.
“Sometimes they malfunction, but usually when they malfunction, it’s because they’re down and they don’t go up. I’ve never seen it where a train is going by and the gates are up,” Martin said.
The MTA said a review of the computer records shows all the gates at all three crossings leading to the station were operational and were down.
That leaves a grieving family planning two funerals with heavy hearts and little insight into what happened.
Funeral services for the two victims will be held Saturday.
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