Electrified rail pierced New York train in crash, official says

admin   •   February 5, 2015   •   2488

A car sits crushed into the front of a Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Metro North Railroad commuter train near the town of Valhalla, New York, February 3, 2015.
CREDIT: REUTERS/MIKE SEGAR

(Reuters) – Hundreds of feet of electrified rail skewered the first two carriages of a New York commuter train in a collision with a car at a railroad crossing, a federal investigator said on Wednesday, describing the area’s worst rail crash in decades.

Investigators were focused on why the car was stopped at the crossing near the suburb of White Plains north of New York City before the Metro-North train crashed into it during Tuesday evening’s rush hour, pushing the vehicle about 1,000 feet down the line.

The rail broke into long pieces, penetrating the first train carriage as a fire broke out, apparently fueled by gasoline in the vehicle’s fuel tank, gutted the rail car’s interior, he said. At least one section of the electrified, or “third,” rail also entered the second carriage near its ceiling.
“This third rail is just basically piling up inside that first train car,” Robert Sumwalt, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), said at a news conference ahead of a week of gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses.

Sumwalt said the NTSB expected to release data from the recorder on the train on Thursday.

Five train passengers and the woman who was driving the Mercedes sport utility vehicle that was stuck on the tracks were killed. Investigators said they do not yet have an explanation for how the vehicle, which officials had earlier mistakenly identified as a Jeep, became stuck on the tracks.

Metro-North, run by the state-controlled Metropolitan Transportation Authority, had four high-profile accidents in 2013 that led to a safety assessment by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

In a March 2014 report to the U.S. Congress, the FRA criticized the nation’s second-largest railroad for a “poor safety culture” and “ineffective training”.

The NTSB released a report late last year that also identified common safety issues, but Sumwalt said Tuesday’s crash may be unrelated.

“I would be very cautious with trying to draw a nexus with what may have happened with Metro-North in the past and this accident,” he said.

The crash appeared to be the deadliest rail accident in the New York area since March 1982, when nine teenagers in a van were killed when a train crashed into them at a crossing in Mineola.

A Metro-North train derailed near the northern edge of New York City in December 2013, killing four people and injuring 70. In May 2013, two Metro-North passenger trains collided in Connecticut, injuring more than 70.

Some 650 passengers regularly take the 5:44 train, which carries commuters through some of country’s wealthiest suburbs.

Fifteen people were injured, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo said. One passenger remained in critical condition and another passenger in “serious” condition on Wednesday afternoon at the local trauma hospital along with six other patients with less serious injuries, Westchester Medical Center officials said.

The Mercedes’ driver was identified as Ellen Brody, a 49-year-old jewelry-shop worker with three children, according to Paul Feiner, the Greenburgh town supervisor.

“She was not a risk-taker in terms of safety,” Feiner, who described himself as a family friend, said in a telephone interview.

One of the killed passengers was identified as Eric Vandercar, who worked at Mesirow Financial, according to a statement by his previous employer, Morgan Stanley. Another was Walter Liedtke, a curator of European paintings for New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the museum said.

Collisions at grade crossings in the United States have declined by more than 40 percent to 2,091 in 2013, from 3,502 at the turn of the century, according to data compiled by the Association of American Railroads and the FRA.

Graphic: link.reuters.com/syh93w

(Additional reporting by Bill Trott and Eric Beech in Washington, Nick Carey in Chicago, Dan Burns, Barbara Goldberg and Jed Horowitz in New York; Writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Scott Malone, Will Dunham and Grant McCool)

The show won’t go on: Broadway closed on coronavirus fears

Robie de Guzman   •   March 13, 2020

Broadway theaters, among New York’s biggest tourist attractions, were shut down for a month on Thursday (March 12) in a bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus in the city.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a ban on all gatherings of more than 500 people, including theatres, starting on Thursday evening. Most Broadway theatres have around 1,000 seats.

The Broadway League said in a statement that shows would be suspended until April 13. They include crowd-pleasers like “Hamilton,” “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The decision was part of a range of extraordinary measures in the nation’s biggest city. Some 328 people in New York are confirmed to have the disease, Cuomo said.

The spreading virus has already led to cancellation or postponement of dozens of U.S. entertainment industry events, including the Coachella and South by Southwest festivals, CinemaCon, the E3 videogames convention and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Broadway was spooked on Wednesday (March 11) when an usher who had worked at two New York theatres tested positive for coronavirus. Owners of the two venues said they had ordered deep cleanings and their shows went ahead on Wednesday.

Television talk shows “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” and “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” said they would tape their broadcasts in New York venues without audiences going forward.

Several Broadway plays and musicals had previously put a halt to cast members greeting fans and signing programs at stage doors.

Some 14.8 million tickets were sold for Broadway shows in the 2018-2019 season that ended in May, bringing $1.8 billion in box office receipts, according to the Broadway League. Some 63% of those going to shows were tourists, from outside the United States or outside New York.

“Our top priority has been and will continue to be the health and well-being of Broadway theatergoers and the thousands of people who work in the theatre industry every day, including actors, musicians, stagehands, ushers, and many other dedicated professionals,” Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, said in a statement on Friday. (Reuters)

(Production by: Catherine Koppel and Hussein al Waaile)

New York reports more cases of new coronavirus, state now has six

UNTV News   •   March 5, 2020

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

The number of people ill with the new coronavirus has risen to six in New York state, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday (March 4).

New York’s Yeshiva University said one of its students had tested positive for COVID-19, and it was canceling all classes on Wednesday at one of its four New York City campuses as a “precautionary step” while it worked with authorities on how to best prepare and keep its students safe.

On Tuesday (March 3), officials said a man in his 50s who lives in a New York City suburb and works at a Manhattan law firm tested positive for the virus, the second identified case in the state. Health authorities said one of his children was a student at Yeshiva University.

The man has severe pneumonia and is hospitalized, officials said. The patient had not traveled to countries hardest hit in the coronavirus outbreak, which began in China in December and is now present in nearly 80 countries and territories, killing more than 3,000 people.

Of the six cases of people with coronavirus in New York, only one is hospitalized, Cuomo said at a news conference.

The four new cases include three family members of the hospitalized man, New York Mayor Bill De Blasio said in a statement. The fourth was a neighbor, according to media reports.

“There are going to be many, many people who test positive. By definition, the more you test, the more people you will find who test positive,” Cuomo said.

New York wants to get the state’s capacity for testing for the virus to up to 1,000 a day, he said.

“The people who we are most concerned about, who are most vulnerable are senior citizens, people with immune comprised situations. What we’re worried about: nursing home setting, senior care setting. That’s what we’ve seen in other places and that’s where the situation is most problematic.”

At least one school in the Bronx neighborhood of New York City closed on Tuesday. The SAR Academy and SAR High School remained closed on Wednesday, but online classes were taking place, according to a man with a child at the school.

A synagogue in New Rochelle, New York, where the family of the hospitalized man lives said on Tuesday it was halting “all services immediately and for the foreseeable future.”

The latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) listed 108 confirmed and presumed cases in the United States. That tally consists of 60 reported by public health authorities in 12 states plus 48 among people repatriated from abroad, most of them from an outbreak aboard the Diamond Princess cruise liner in Japan.

Nine people have died in the Seattle area, health officials said. Washington state in the Pacific Northwest has the largest concentration of coronavirus cases detected to date in the United States with 27 people infected as of Tuesday. (REUTERS CONNECT)

(Production: Dan Fastenberg)

Coronavirus-warning robot descends on New York’s Times Square

UNTV News   •   February 11, 2020

A 5-foot-tall Promobot descended on New York’s Times Square on Monday (February 10) to inform the public about the symptoms of coronavirus and how to prevent it from spreading.

Curious passersby stopped, and complete a short questionnaire on an iPad attached to the robot’s chest, and even had a conversation with the machine.

“This thing is very clever. It’s really, really clever,” said Tara Healy, who was visiting New York from London.

Others thought the bot was part of the New York experience.

“A bit mental,” said Thomas McAlinden from Scotland. “But sums up New York for me.”

Promobot was created by a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, – based startup run by a group of Russians.

The company’s chief business development officer Oleg Kivorkutsev told Reuters the company makes autonomous service robots for businesses.

Kivorkutsev and his colleagues said they organized several events around New York City, with Promobot giving away face masks and talking to people, to promote its products.

“We did a special software to detect coronavirus symptoms,” Kivorkutsev told Reuters. “We understand how this problem is important, how people are nervous, people are afraid of this. But if they understand few, simple things, for example, what symptoms coronavirus has, what they should do to prevent (it), everything will be fine and everyone will be happy.”

So far, five people in New York City have been tested for the virus – with four cleared and one pending.

(Production: Aleksandra Michalska & Nelson Villarreal)

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