It was a quiet time of the morning at Riverdale Fire/EMS Station 7. Just after 6:00 AM, Monday, March 8, 2004, crews were starting to shuffle and prepare to greet the on-coming shift.
The fire station is located just three doors down from the train crossing located at Queensbury Road and Rhode Island Avenue. Hearing the daily commute of trains is a way of life at the station, however, this morning they heard a noise drastically different from what they normally do.
The sound of an approaching train did not raise their attention until a loud crash accompanied it.
Firefighters looked out the window of the station and saw a large plume of smoke and they knew something had gone terribly wrong. This is a street level crossing protected by flashing lights and gates.
MARC Commuter Trains and CSX Freight Trains share the track. A MARC commuter train occupied the southbound track and was parked at the Riverdale Park Station as commuters boarded the train for the trip to Union Station in Washington, DC.
A Chevrolet Camero, occupied by two males, according to witnesses, approached the crossing from the west and attempted to make a right hand turn after crossing the tracks. The driver miscalculated the turn and cut it short by 25 feet.
The car went off the side of the track bed and became stuck with the tail end of the car still on the northbound track. One occupant fled the scene on foot while the other remained on the scene and eventually taken into custody by the Riverdale Park Police Department.
An alert MARC train conductor radioed to an approaching north bound CSX freight train of the situation. The 80 car CSX train tried to stop, however, could not mange to do so within that short of a distance and collided with the unoccupied vehicle.
The vehicle was pushed about 30 yards up the track and became wedged in between the stopped MARC train and the now stopped CSX train and caught fire. There were 175 passengers on board the MARC train, which conducted a safe and orderly evacuation.
Firefighters from the Riverdale Station were en route to the scene and alerted Public Safety Communications of the situation and requested additional assistance. Riverdale firefighters utilized foam to knock down the fire that took about 30 minutes to extinguish.
The CSX train, loaded with new cars, sustained moderate structural damage to the locomotive and some damage from the fire. The MARC train sustained moderate fire damage to one of the passenger cars. There were no injuries from this incident. The remnants of the Camero were removed from the track bed by railroad officials and the trains were allowed to move and tracks reopened by 10:00 AM.