VALHALLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A man who was on board a Metro-North train that slammed into a sport utility vehicle killing six people and injuring 15 others said he has no idea how he survived.

Chris Gross, 24, usually catches an earlier train home to Somers, but stopped at a Modell’s to buy sneakers and instead got on the 5:45 p.m. train out of Grand Central Terminal.

“I normally catch the 5:27, I kind of wish I was on that train,” Gross told 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck.

Gross was riding in the first few rows of the first car of Harlem Line train No. 659 when it crashed into the SUV at Commerce Street in Valhalla just after 6:30 p.m.

The violent collision tossed him from his seat.

PHOTOS: Deadly Metro-North Accident

Within seconds, there was fire.

“Flames were about a foot from my head,” he told WCBS 880’s Sean Adams. “When I fell, people fell on top of me.”

Gross said he saw catastrophic injuries.

“I did see a compound fracture on somebody’s leg,” Gross said. “I turned around and somebody had lost their foot, I did see that and that’s an image I’ll never forget.”

Another man opened an emergency exit and they ushered the walking wounded off the burning train.

Gross escaped unscathed.

“I’m incredibly lucky,” he said. “I thank God I have angels looking out for me right now.”

Although he wasn’t physically hurt, Gross said he can’t get the horrific images of the crash out of his head.

“I was up all night last night, just replaying everything in my head,” Gross said.

Not being able to sleep, Gross said he returned to the scene of the crash, and wondered how it was he who survived.

“It still hasn’t hit me yet,” Gross said.

Survivors of the deadly crash suffered everything from burns to broken bones, CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported.

A total of 12 people were brought to Westchester Medical Center with varying injuries, where hospital staff readied 10 operating rooms and had more than 100 people on-hand to treat patients.

Jerilyn Purdy came in to the ER Wednesday with her son’s girlfriend who woke up stiff and sore.

“Very shaken, she had to climb out the window of the train, walk along a narrow path along the creek and cross the tracks. She was outside for quite some time in the freezing cold,” Purdy said.

Purdy said the woman normally rides in the first car, but Tuesday night thankfully sat in the third.

Four patients have already been released, Gainer reported.

CBS2’s Dave Carlin was at the hospital on Wednesday night, where patients were getting treated, including several who were in the burn unit where one was listed in critical condition.

Metro-North commuter Devon Champagne was in the second car from the front, and said his first instinct was to run for his life.

“I saw the flames and someone screamed ‘fire’ my instincts all kicked in,” he said.

Escaping straight through the train proved futile as the exit was blocked by panicked passengers.

“The guy next to me was able to hit it with something sharp and break the glass. There was a little ladder on the door and we were able to get down,” he said.

Champagne said he saw riders covered in blood, and recognized commuters who travel the same line with him. He rode his car to work on Wednesday and said getting back to the normal commute will take time.

“I have to get over my fear, but it’s always going to be in the back of my head,” he said.

Doctors say they’re optimistic everyone in their care will be OK and praise first responders for their work at the scene.

“We were preparing to receive far more and fortunately the majority of the patients on the train were not seriously injured,” Dr. Ivan Miller said.

The hospital said it will give an update on remaining patients’ conditions Thursday.


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