A Long Island Rail Road train and a vehicle collided Tuesday at a Patchogue grade crossing -- the second such incident in 24 hours -- and sent the hatchback flying about 30 feet down the tracks, officials and a witness said.
The driver, Gary Calderon, 67, of Shirley, suffered minor injuries and was taken to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue, MTA officials said. He was issued a summons for failing to obey warnings of an approaching train by going under, around or through crossing gates, said MTA spokeswoman Meredith Daniels.
Thirteen passengers aboard were uninjured.mapCheck for LIRR delays
The four-car train from Babylon to Speonk had just pulled out of the Patchogue station shortly after noon Tuesday when the crash happened on the Rider Avenue rail crossing, said Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Aaron Donovan. There was a brief delay.
Wayne Berry said he was driving out of his Rider Avenue employer's parking lot when he spotted the Ford Focus, which was northbound on Rider, go through the crossing gate.
"I saw the car cross the tracks with the gates down and then he smashed into the train," said Berry, a technician, who called 911 and rushed to the victim's aid. "He tried beating the train."
The collision hurled the hatchback toward the nearby Swezey Fuel Oil building, where oil dispatcher Lee Harrison said he and co-workers heard a loud bang.
He said the train knocked the car into a railroad stanchion, which he believes hit the building, and knocked out an air conditioner and windows. It stopped inches outside Harrison's window.
"We all thought it was a train derailing," Harrison said. "I stood up and the car ended up right outside my window and the train kept going."
The front of the hatchback was crushed, its hood bent and pushed back toward the windshield. Patchogue Village Mayor Paul Pontieri said the Swezey building did not sustain critical, structural damage.
Because the train had just left the station, about a block or so from Rider Avenue, "it most likely would not have been traveling at a high rate of speed," Donovan said.
Pontieri said he suspects it was going no more than 20 or 30 mph.
The crash comes on the heels of Monday's accident in East Rockaway, where a Toyota was on the tracks and was hit by a westbound train at the Rocklyn Avenue crossing. The driver suffered back and neck injuries, authorities said.
These crashes at LIRR crossings and one in Westchester County that killed six last month have thrust rail crossing safety into the limelight.
MTA officials are mulling education, technology and other ways to cut down collisions at grade crossings, including the nearly 300 on Long Island.
At an MTA board meeting last week, the agency's chairman and chief executive, Thomas Prendergast, said all strategies were possible, including the most expensive -- eliminating certain crossings by elevating tracks or building bridges for vehicles at a price of $100 million each.
With John Valenti