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New York transit agency captive leads coverage in fatal commuter crash

New York transit agency captive leads coverage in fatal commuter crash

The Metropolitan Transit Authority's captive insurer, First Mutual Transportation Assurance Co., will provide excess coverage up to $50 million for third party claims for injury and property damage resulting from last week’s deadly commuter train crash in New York, an MTA spokesman confirmed.

First Mutual, which is licensed and domiciled in New York, will provide coverage after a self-insured retention of $10 million, the spokesman said.

Above the $50 million coverage layer, the MTA maintains $350 million in liability coverage through the commercial insurance markets, the spokesman said. The MTA also maintains an all-agency property insurance program covering MTA Metro-North Railroad, with a $25 million deductible per occurrence for damages to MTA equipment.

The Feb. 3 crash killed five commuters riding in the first car of the Metro-North express train as well as the driver of an SUV that has stopped on the tracks at a crossing in Westchester County.

In a press briefing Friday, National Transportation Safety Board member Robert L. Sumwalt said the onsite investigation had confirmed that the electrified third rail on the tracks had entered the first car, setting it ablaze. “There were 12 pieces, 39-foot sections, of the third rail that penetrated the rail car,” he said.

An interview with the train’s engineer has yielded valuable insights, Mr. Sumwalt said.

“The engineer said that he saw a reflection at crossing and soon realized that it was the front end of a car on the track,” he said. “The engineer immediately put the train into emergency braking, and then he saw the car advanced further onto the track.”

Mr. Sumwalt said his team had also been able to construct a better understanding of the crash using data gathered from accident site.

“About 4 seconds after it went into emergency braking, the train struck the SUV,” he said. “The speed of the collision was 48 mph, and the train travelled approximately 650 feet after striking the SUV.”

As the onsite investigation winds down, the NTSB team in Washington will construct 3-D models using data gleaned from the rail car, SUV and crash site, Mr. Sumwalt said, noting the investigation will also focus on the driver of the SUV, Ellen Brody, 49, of Dobbs Ferry, New York. “We are in the process of collecting information, and one of the things we were able to collect is information about the driver of the SUV,” he said. “We are told the accident site is not along her usual route to return from work.”

A NTSB spokesperson said the preliminary report is due to be issued on or around Feb. 23.

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