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LIRR president: Fatal crash to have major impact on Wednesday commute

LIRR president Phillip Eng discusses the crash near

LIRR president Phillip Eng discusses the crash near at the Westbury LIRR station on Tuesday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The fatal crash involving two Long Island Rail Road trains and a vehicle at a Westbury crossing is expected to have a major impact on LIRR service during the morning rush and possibly beyond, the railroad's president said Tuesday. 

Service remained suspended on the LIRR's busy Ronkonkoma and Huntington branches Tuesday night, and LIRR president Phillip Eng, speaking from the scene of the accident, said crews could not begin working on the repairs necessary to restore service until a police investigation was concluded.

Eng said the LIRR had set up shuttle train service to bring customers from Hicksville south to Babylon, where they could catch connecting trains Tuesday night. Those shuttles will also run Wednesday morning, he said.

"We expect that the morning service will be impacted," Eng told reporters. "We know that there's damage. . . . Until we can remove the train and get further in there, we won't know how long it will take to repair."

Eng said the two front cars of a westbound train derailed and that at least 200 feet of rail would have to be replaced. He said that while a portion of the north-side platform at the Westbury station had been destroyed, there was still enough room to handle a 10-car train.

By 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, MTA workers had beamed floodlights on the damaged track, trains and platform to prepare the station for service as soon as possible. The silver westbound train stood at rest at Linden and Union avenues, with portions of the chipped, cracked and snapped platform flaring upward and against the surface of the train’s first two cars. Union Avenue, a street that runs parallel to the train tracks, was closed to traffic as crews worked to restore service.

In a statement, LIRR Commuter Council chairman Mark Epstein called on local officials to make accommodations for commuters who might be impacted by the crash.

"As the authorities continue to repair the area and investigate the events leading up to this accident, if it comes to pass that damage affects commuting on the Main Line and riders are directed to other lines, we ask that county, town and LIRR officials work together towards a plan to allow riders to park and use nonaffected stations without penalty," Epstein said. 

With Zachary R. Dowdy

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