New York train was not speeding before crash with car

admin   •   February 6, 2015   •   2072

The vehicle that was struck by a commuter train is lifted from the tracks in Mount Pleasant, near Valhalla, New York, February 4, 2015.
CREDIT: REUTERS/SHANNON STAPLETON

(Reuters) – The New York commuter train that plowed into a car stopped on a crossing this week was traveling just below the speed limit and no problem was found with the signals or traffic barriers at the site of the deadly crash, a federal investigator said on Thursday.

But preliminary data released after the first full day of the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation did not clear up the central mystery of the fatal accident: why did a Mercedes sports utility vehicle end up on the wrong side of the crossing barrier as the Metro-North train approached?

The fiery crash that followed killed the SUV driver and five train passengers in the deadliest rail accident in the New York area in more than three decades. It was the latest in a string of accidents to unnerve commuters on the country’s second-largest commuter railroad.

The driver of the vehicle behind the Mercedes told NTSB investigators on Thursday that traffic was “edging along” at the railway crossing in Valhalla, an affluent town north of New York City, Robert Sumwalt, an NTSB member, said at a news conference.

The Mercedes came to a stop on the crossing, Sumwalt said. The barrier descended on its rear window. The crossing warning lights began flashing and sirens started to ring out, and the driver behind her described reversing to make room for her to retreat, gesturing with his hands, Sumwalt said.

Instead, he watched as Ellen Brody, a 49-year-old mother of three who worked in a local jewelry shop, got out of the Mercedes and inspected the barrier without moving it before getting back into the driver’s seat.

“Then she sat in the vehicle,” Sumwalt said. “He described it as if she had enough time to put on her seatbelt.”

Investigators also interviewed the engineer on Thursday who was driving the crowded rush-hour train. He told them that he spotted the Mercedes ahead of him, Sumwalt said.

Data from a train recording device showed it was traveling at 58 miles per hour, just below the speed limit of 60 miles per hour, and had sounded its horn in the usual way as it approached the crossing: two long blasts, a short one, two more long ones.

The engineer deployed the train’s emergency brake, and the train’s horn blew again for four seconds. Meanwhile, the driver behind the Mercedes watched as Brody “suddenly pulled forward,” Sumwalt said.

“As she did so, the train struck the car,” Sumwalt said.

The train, pushing the Mercedes down the track, took nearly 30 seconds and 950 feet before coming to a stop after the emergency brake was activated, Sumwalt.

Long pieces of electrified “third” rail skewered the Mercedes and pierced the first two train carriages as a gasoline-fueled fire erupted. Passengers riding the train’s rear remained oblivious to the carnage unfolding ahead of them.

Sumwalt said his team were seeking Brody’s records and trying to figure out how familiar she was with the route and her Mercedes.

On Thursday, people commuting to work on Metro-North said the crash made them think more about safety.

“Did I think deep down whether I should be sitting in the first car? I thought about it,” said Alan Trager, 65, chief executive officer of a non-profit agency, as he rode the same train line out of Grand Central Terminal.

“I go, ‘Oh, I should have paid attention to the emergency windows,'” he said as he sat in the second carriage of the train. “It’s enhanced my consciousness of that.”

About 250 people a year are killed in vehicle-train collisions at U.S. crossings, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

Graphic: link.reuters.com/syh93w

(Writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Barbara Goldberg, David Gregorio and Bernard Orr)

Trump calls off meeting with Danish prime minister over Greenland comments

Robie de Guzman   •   August 21, 2019

President Donald Trump said on Tuesday (August 20) he was postponing his scheduled meeting with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen in two weeks because of her lack of interest in his offer to purchase Greenland.

“Denmark is a very special country with incredible people, but based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting scheduled in two weeks for another time,” Trump said in a post on Twitter.

A White House official said Trump had dropped the Sept. 2-3 stop in Denmark, a NATO ally. Trump had been due to discuss the Arctic in meetings in Copenhagen with Frederiksen, who took office in June, and Prime Minister Kim Kielsen of Greenland.

He is due to visit Poland on Aug. 31.

Frederiksen said on Sunday the idea of selling Greenland to the United States was absurd after an economic adviser to Trump confirmed U.S. interest in buying the world’s largest island.

“Greenland is not for sale. Greenland is not Danish. Greenland belongs to Greenland. I strongly hope that this is not meant seriously,” Frederiksen told the newspaper Sermitsiaq during a visit to Greenland.

Trump confirmed to reporters on Sunday that he had recently discussed the possibility of buying Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory, although he said such a move was not an immediate priority.

“The concept came up and … strategically it’s interesting,” Trump told reporters in Morristown, New Jersey.

A defense treaty between Denmark and the United States dating back to 1951 gives the U.S. military rights over the Thule Air Base in northern Greenland.

Trump’s interest in buying Greenland has been met with incredulity and humor. Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who recently stepped down as Danish prime minister, tweeted last week: “It must be an April Fool’s Day joke.” (Reuters)

(Production: Deborah Lutterbeck)

Japan, South Korea, China vow to address diplomatic issues at trilateral summit

Robie de Guzman   •   August 21, 2019

(L-R) Korean foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono speaking at trilateral summit, commenting on diplomatic issues between three countries| Courtesy: Reuters

China, Japan and South Korea foreign ministers on Wednesday (August 21) vowed to address diplomatic issues at a trilateral summit.

Ties between Japan and South Korea were arguably at their lowest ebb since their relationship was normalized in 1965, hit by a heated feud over the issue of South Korean forced labour during World War Two, which spilled over into a bitter tit-for-tat trade row.

During a joint statement given by all three foreign ministers, South Korea’s Kang Kyung-wha said that the three countries should “remember to face history” and remove “retaliatory trade measures,” a clear jab at recent measures taken by Japan to remove it from its “white list” of trade partners.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono shied away from commenting directly on the strain with South Korea, instead saying that all three countries should “work closely” in light of diplomatic “difficulties”.

China’s Wang Yi, following Kono’s words, said that China “hopes” Japan and South Korea will take the opportunity to manage their differences constructively during the summit.

This is the ninth such trilateral foreign ministers meeting, the last being three years ago.

From 2008, the three countries had agreed to hold a summit every year to foster regional cooperation. But bilateral tension, including that between China and Japan, has often intervened. (Reuters)

(Production: Wang Shubing, Joseph Campbell, Hyunyoung Yi, Kwiyeon Ha)

Australian bee whisperer extracts 50kg trove of honey hidden in ceiling

Robie de Guzman   •   August 21, 2019

A treasure trove of honeycombs in the form of a massive bee hive hidden in a ceiling| Courtesy: Paul Wood / Brisbane Backyard Bees

Australian beekeeper Paul Wood removed a treasure trove of honeycombs in the form of a massive bee hive hidden in a woman’s home in suburban Brisbane, Australia.

Wood removed the 50kg (110.2 pounds) of honeycomb, including the 60,000-bee population of the ten-month old hive on Saturday (August 17) at the behest of the house’s owner and transplanted them into what he refers to as a “free range hive” in his backyard.

“Now what happens in Brisbane and probably lots of places around the world, is that when bees swarm, every spring time – that’s their reproduction – and if they can’t find a natural hollow tree as a new home, they quite often go into the cavity walls of houses, or ceilings of houses,” said Wood, owner of Brisbane Backyard Bees.

“They build that beautiful comb – as soon as they move into those cavities, and as you can see, in ten months, they’ve built an awful lot of comb. They’ve also sucked into that cavity 50 kilos of honey and they bred up the numbers to about 50 to 60 thousand bees in that time,” he added.

His video of his removal of the massive hive and its succulent honeycombs from the structure’s ceiling went viral on social media.

Wood and his colleague gently vacuumed the bees into a special box for transportation and removed the honeycombs, straining the honey into jars.

Video obtained by Reuters showed Wood carefully dismantling the hive, piece by piece.

While the bees remain in a temporary hive in Wood’s backyard, he says they will eventually be sent to beekeeping enthusiasts in Brisbane. (Reuters)

(Production: Yi Shu Ng)

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