Himes on fatal train accident: Many questions need to be answered

Congressman Jim Himes, whose district includes most of Shelton, said there are many questions surrounding last night’s fatal accident involving a Metro-North train and sports utility vehicle in Westchester County, N.Y., that left at least six people dead.

“While we still don't have all of the facts about this accident, it's clear that there are a host of questions that need to be answered in the days ahead,” Himes said.

“I will keep pushing to ensure that we take concrete steps to prevent another incident like this from happening again,” he said.

Most of Fairfield County is in Himes’ district, and this includes many towns with a high percentage of rail commuters.

‘Thoughts are with the victims’

Himes said he is thinking of those impacted by the accident.

“My thoughts are with the victims of this horrible tragedy,” he said. “I offer my condolences to their families, and I pray for the swift recovery of those who were injured last night.

“I thank the first responders at the scene for their tireless efforts,” Himes said.

Slammed into a SUV

The accident occurred at about 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday in Valhalla, N.Y., which is about 20 miles north of New York City. The town is slightly north of White Plains, N.Y.

A crowded commuter train heading north on Metro-North’s Harlem Line ran into a SUV that was inside the crossing’s safety gates. The vehicle burst into flames from the collision  and fire engulfed the front of the train. It’s unclear exactly why the SUV was on or near the tracks.

The vehicle’s driver and five people inside the train died, and from 10 to 15 other train passengers were seriously injured. As of late Wednesday afternoon, the names of the deceased had not been released.

Reports indicate about 650 people were on the train at the time of the accident.

Federal agency to investigate

The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the fatal accident.

Other accidents have occurred on the Metro-North Railroad in recent years, including one in the Bronx that killed four people in late 2013.

Two Metro-North trains ran into each other on the Fairfield/Bridgeport border in May 2013, injuring dozens of passengers. These incidents have raised concerns about the railroad’s safety procedures.

Metro-North also operates the New Haven Line that serves Connecticut. This includes the Waterbury Branch that goes through the Valley, with a Derby/Shelton station.

The Hudson Line is used by many Connecticut residents who live in towns near the New York state border, such as Ridgefield.

DeLauro: Preventing a future accident

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, who represents a part of Shelton, also released a statement on the accident.

“Federal investigators will determine what happened and how we can keep it from happening again,” DeLauro said. “We must find a way to ensure that something as simple as a commute home does not become a deadly accident.”

DeLauro offered her sympathies to those impacted by the tragedy. “My deepest condolences go out to the families of the six people who tragically passed away and those who were on the train,” she said.

“A profound ‘thank you’ goes out to the first responders who assisted those on the scene,” DeLauro added.

Shelton is in two congressional districts

The city of Shelton is divided between two congressional districts.

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes lives in Greenwich and was first elected to Congress in 2008. He represents the Fourth District, which includes most of Fairfield County. Himes was re-elected to a fourth term in November 2014.

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro lives in New Haven and was first elected to Congress in 1990. Also a Democrat, DeLauro represents the Third District, which is centered in New Haven County and includes a part of Shelton. She is serving her 13th term.