Brentwood train victim's husband in disbelief
"They told me something that is very difficult to believe," Luis Maldonado, 57, said Thursday as he sat in his living room, surrounded by pictures of his wife, Blanca, 45.
"She was a very good driver," he continued. "She had been driving for over 17 years. She had a very good record, never had any problems. She was always alert. She was always respectful of the traffic laws. So it is very difficult to believe that she raced a train and tried to beat it out."
As he spoke, Maldonado moved his open hands in semicircles, imitating how his wife would have to maneuver the car to get past the gates. "You would need to be such a very expert driver," he said.
"She was very alert. She was not distracted, because I had spoken to her about five minutes before the accident occurred," he said, adding he spoke on the telephone to his wife while she was parked outside a Brentwood pharmacy, waiting for her father to get a prescription refilled.
The railroad said the engineer of the eastbound train and an independent witness told investigators that the car went around the lowered gates to the west of the Brentwood Station. The railroad also said Thursday that "computer data support the conclusion that the crossing gates at 2nd St. were working properly."
The impact killed the driver and her father, identified by Maldonado as Jose Adolfo Reyes, 74, of Flushing. The train pushed the remnants of the 2010 Nissan Maxima half a mile before coming to a stop partly into the Brentwood Station.
The medical examiner has not released the bodies of the victims or made an official identification, but the family was expected to receive visitors Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Branch Funeral Home at 190 East Main St., Smithtown.
As Maldonado spoke, his daughter, Karina, 11, snuggled under his left elbow. His sons, Alejandro, 18, and Andres, 20, stood off to the side.
He said his wife had been taking her father to an appointment to see an adviser about switching his medical coverage from his former employer, Metal Crafters, a Ronkonkoma firm, to Medicare following his recent retirement.
Maldonado, a psychiatrist in private practice, said he met his future wife while she was the office manager of a Queens medical office. She had not worked in recent years, he said.