Metro-North train crash victims identified

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Lisa Colagrossi reporting (WABC)

A driver heading home from her jewelry shop job, a Metropolitan Museum of Art curator, a scientist and two commuters with long careers in finance were among those killed when a train hit an SUV at a suburban rail crossing in Valhalla.

The driver involved in Tuesday night's Metro-North accident has been identified as 49-year-old Ellen Brody, a jewelry store employee from Edgemont.

Ellen Brody via LinkedIn

(Ellen Brody via LinkedIn)
Brody was a married mother of three, and her husband, author and journalist Alan Brody, released a statement on Facebook: "Thank you to those who shared their condolences for the terrible tragedy that took my beloved wife, Ellen, whom so many of you knew."

The two had three daughters in their teens and 20s. For 15 years, Brody worked in a jewelry store on Greeley Avenue in Chappaqua. Co-workers described her as a ray of sunshine, always putting other people ahead of herself.

At her synagogue, Brody was "definitely the connector" who helped create camaraderie, according to Rabbi Benjy Silverman.

"She was passionate about Judaism, she was passionate about her kids, and she did a great job of fulfilling the values that were important to her," he said.

"She was such a good person, such an amazing mom, a friend like you wouldn't believe," co-worker Virginia Shasha said. "But I have to tell you, whoever she encountered in life, she just, they left smiling, they always left smiling."

Friends said they have driven with Ellen many times and have no reason to think that she was anything but a good and safe driver, and have no explanation for what happened.

"This is just really very devastating because she's, like, a tremendous person, a really nice person," said Paul Feiner, the town supervisor in Greenburgh, which includes Edgemont.

Feiner, who said he knew Brody for two decades, added that she was "not the type of person, somebody who was careless, not risky when it came to her safety or others."

Brody also helped found a student news network in her town and was involved in almost everything at her synagogue, friends and her rabbi said.
One of the victims aboard the train has been identified as 53-year old Eric Vandercar, a father of two who worked for a financial services firm, Mesirow Financial.

Eric Vandercar

Vandercar was senior managing director for institutional sales and trading in the firm's New York office. In a statement, the company said: "Eric was not only a pillar in our industry, he was a great partner and friend to many. Losing him is a huge loss, personally and professionally. Our entire Mesirow family is hurting and our deepest sympathies are extended to his wife, Jill, and their family."

Vandercar, who worked at Morgan Stanley for 27 years before working at Mesirow, focused on what are known as tender option bonds, complex financial transactions involving local-government bonds. He had an MBA from New York University and bachelor's degrees from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and School of Engineering and Applied Science, according to Mesirow.

A married father, Vandercar was a familiar figure among jam band aficionados who make and circulate live-show recordings, generally with the bands' approval.

"Words can't express how devastated we are today," the band moe. - the period is part of the name - posted on its website Wednesday. Vandercar saw the group play as recently as last month in Jamaica, the band wrote, adding that members would remember him enjoying music and hanging out backstage, "chatting with that easy smile of his."
Another victim from the train was identified as 69-year old Walter Liedtke, curator of European paintings at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The museum released a statement: "We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss. Walter Liedtke was a brilliant, respected curator and scholar of Dutch and Flemish paintings who was part of the Met family for 35 years. He organized dozens of major exhibitions that brought the works of Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals, and many other great artists to millions of our visitors. He will long be remembered for his vast knowledge, his wit, and a passion for art that inspired all who came in contact with him."

"It's just devastating to us all. We knew him for so many years and it's just hard to lose somebody who means so much and was part of our life," said one of his neighbors, Ursula LaMotte. She and her husband, Tom, rented a home to Liedtke and his wife in Bedford Hills for the past 33 years.

Tom faced the gut-wrenching task of accompanying his wife to the medical examiner. "They told her that they found his watch. They identified all the survivors and he wasn't on the list and that's when it was so hard," he said.

Liedtke was active in his community, judging local art contests, helping his neighbors, and shoveling their driveways as recently as Monday's snowstorm.
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton confirmed the identity of a third passenger killed. Aditya Tomar, 41, of Danbury, was one of five train passengers who died.

He worked for J.P. Morgan, which released the following statement:

"It is heartbreaking to share the news that two J.P. Morgan employees were among the victims of this week's tragic MetroNorth train accident - Joseph Nadol from the Corporate & Investment Bank and Aditya Tomar from Asset Management. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families, and to the many employees who worked with these colleagues and knew them well. It is a terrible tragedy and loss."

The mayor has spoken with Tomar's family and asked to give them privacy.

Robert Greenstein, the town supervisor of New Castle confirmed that 36-year-old Robert Dirks, of Chappaqua, died in the train crash.

Dirks was a scientist at D.E. Shaw Research in Manhattan. He received his bachelor's degree from Wabash College and a PhD in chemistry at the California Institute of Technology.

His company's website said he worked in the "development of novel computational chemistry methods," but his father told The New York Times his son had an easier way to describe his complex job. "He used to say - 'Dad, just say I'm a scientist, then they can understand.'"

Dirks, 36, who was married and had two young children, was born in Bangkok, Thailand, where his mother was from, his father said. His wife also formerly worked for D.E. Shaw. He lived in Chappaqua.

D.E. Shaw Research released the following statement:

"Robert was a brilliant scientist who made tremendous contributions to our own research, and to the broader scientific community, during his eight years at D.E. Shaw Research. He will be deeply missed as both a colleague and a friend. Our hearts go out to his wife Christine and their children."

A neighbor of Dirks, Jose Leon, was a passenger in the rear car of the train the night of the crash, painfully aware that Dirks, his neighbor, was up front. "I remember he used to sit at the front and I was, I didn't know what to say. I was, wow, he's in there."

The Town of New Castle confirmed that 42-year-old Joseph B. Nadol III of Ossining was also killed.

Nadol was a JPMorgan Chase executive, a managing director and analyst who covered the aerospace and defense industries. He joined JPMorgan in 2001 after five years at Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette.

"Our thoughts and support are with Joe's family during this difficult time," the company said in a statement.
Many of the victims were from Westchester County, but officials will need dental records to positively identify them because of the extent of their injuries. Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino met with one family member at the medical examiner's office.

"The wife that I spoke to inside is obviously grieving," he said. "It's an enormously difficult day for her. She met with the medical examiner, with the Red Cross. I offered her any assistance she needs...from the county. She drove her by herself...She brought the dental records in."

Several injured victims were taken to Westchester Medical Center, where 6 remained Thursday. One person is in critical condition, four are serious, and one is fair, according to hospital personnel.

Dr. Joseph Turkowski said the silver lining is that the injuries were not as numerous or as serious as they could have been.

The injuries treated included lacerations, dislocations, some crush injuries, open fractures, smoke inhalation and burns.

State minority leader Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins released a statement Wednesday on the wreck.

"This was a horrific tragedy," she said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with those who lost loved ones and those that have been injured. There will be a full investigation into this heartbreaking incident and over the next few days we will find out exactly what happened. Now is the time for all us to support those so deeply affected by this tragedy."

Metro-North has set up a family assistance center for those affected by the crash at the Mount Pleasant Town Hall in Valhalla. The agency also has established a hotline for information about Tuesday's deadly crash at 1-800-638-7646.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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