Cops: 2 die as car on tracks hit by train
Two people were killed in Brentwood Tuesday when their car went around a lowered crossing gate and was hit by a Long Island Rail Road train before the vehicle burst into flames and nearly disintegrated, police said.
The train was carrying no passengers, but an engineer and two workers were on board, officials said; they were not injured.
The names of the two victims were not released last night. They were burned beyond recognition, police said.
The crash pushed the burning wreck eastbound from the impact site at the 2nd Street rail crossing to the Brentwood LIRR station about half a mile away, officials said. The fire blackened the front of the train, they said.
"As he approached the crossing, the motorman saw the vehicle go around the lowered gate," Metropolitan Transportation Authority police Capt. Neil Boyle said at a news conference on the station platform, near the wrecked car and the train on the track. "He put the train into emergency brake, sounded his horn."
Limited eastbound service was restored Tuesday afternoon and except for a few possible early delays, service should be on a regular schedule Wednesday, MTA officials said.
Taxi driver Gil Tucker said he heard glass from the car and train windows "popping and hissing," and walked toward the sound to investigate.
"I just saw the train come to a sudden stop," said Tucker, 38, of Brentwood. "I know from my history that the train hit somebody or hit something, and I saw the fire. I thought it was just the train on fire, and then when I looked further and you look underneath the train, you see a wheel of a car."
A railroad source said investigators are still trying to determine how fast the eastbound train was traveling when it struck the car on its way to the Ronkonkoma yard.
The maximum allowable speed on that section of track is 80 mph, the source said.
Investigators are also checking reports that the driver of the vehicle was talking on a cellphone at the time of the crash, according to a source.
The car, a 2010 Nissan Maxima, was obliterated by the impact.
Firefighters from the Brentwood Fire Department extinguished the blaze, officials said.
In June, an LIRR train crashed into an SUV on the tracks in Islip east of Tuesday's collision site, killing the driver, a 27-year-old Bay Shore man. In that crash, which occurred about 4:40 a.m., it was not known if the SUV went around the crossing gates or if the vehicle had become disabled on the tracks.
That train was carrying 31 passengers, all of whom were evacuated from the train.
The number of crashes and fatalities involving vehicles and LIRR trains in 2012 was not available Tuesday. In 2011, 22 people were killed on LIRR rights of way, according to the railroad. Of those, 10 were deemed suicides.