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Driver Escapes As Car Crashes Onto Metro-North Tracks, Catches Fire

VALHALLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Trains were delayed on the Metro-North Harlem Line Monday evening, after a car ended up on the tracks in Valhalla.

As CBS 2’s Lou Young reported, the driver miraculously escaped with his life, and without injury.

The 63-year-old driver from Armonk was a commuter getting into in his modified handicap car – which was parked at the Valhalla Metro-North station, officials said.

The driver hit the accelerator instead of the brake, and launched himself through a fence and onto the electrified tracks, officials said.

After the accident, the Toyota was rocked on and off the third rail as the driver tried to pull himself out of the precarious and very dangerous situation.

The car caught fire and was left burned in several places from the electrical contact, officials said.

Witnesses and first responders were amazed to find the man alive and standing next to the burning car.

“It exploded three times. He went to back off the third rail. It exploded again, then he went forward, and the car exploded up in the air, and then he pulled into the center,” said witness Mike Klimek. “Everyone wanted to go over there to help the guy out, and I told them to stop because the fence was hot. And the fence set the deck over at the Valhalla station – train station – on fire also.”

“Once he got off the third rail, all he had was the car on fire, and luckily, he stepped – I mean, if he stepped on the metal fence that’s on the ground there, that would have electrocuted him there,” said Valhalla fire Chief Roger King. “So he really is fortunate.”

The driver was apparently saved from the insulation on the tires, officials said.

The heat from the fire damaged one of the rails, which forced officials to close it. Delays of about 40 minutes were reported Monday evening, and the affected track on the Harlem Line was expected to be out of service for the next several hours, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Oddly enough, this was not the first time that something like this happened, a witness said.

“About two weeks ago, the same thing happened at the other end,” said restaurant owner Stan Chelluck. “The car made a left-hand turn in the middle of the tracks, caught fire. I’d never seen it before then. I’ve been here nine years. But twice in two weeks is a lot.”

In the previous incident, CBS 2 was told the driver followed his GPS onto the tracks. In that case, the driver also escaped without injury.

In the latest incident, trains were moving past the scene slowly on the one open track while crews hoisted the car off and away. Full service was expected to return by Tuesday morning.

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