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Preliminary report released on deadly New York train, SUV crash

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Federal investigators on Monday made public a preliminary report that confirmed much of what was already known about a deadly collision between a commuter train and an SUV at a suburban New York rail crossing this month.

The National Transportation Safety Board's report estimated the damage from the Feb. 3 crash that killed five people aboard a Metro-North train in Valhalla, New York, and the SUV driver at about $3.7 million.

It did not shed any light on why 49-year-old Ellen Brody's Mercedes SUV ended up in the path of an evening rush hour train filled with passengers from New York City's Grand Central Terminal.

Witnesses told investigators that the SUV was stopped in the crossing prior to the safety gates lowering.

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"When the gate lowered it struck the rear portion of the SUV after which the driver exited the SUV, looked at the back of the SUV, then got back in the SUV, drove forward (east), and was struck by the train," the report said.

The report confirmed that in the collision, the electrified third rail detached, pierced the SUV and then entered the first railcar.

"The collision resulted in a fire which consumed the SUV and lead railcar," the report said.

Investigators said they planned to conduct a metallurgical examination of some of the third rail pieces. They also said they would examine the train car interior to determine whether it was compliant with fire protection standards.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)