A commuter train on Metro-North’s Harlem Line out of Grand Central Station struck an SUV at a grade crossing near Valhalla, killing six people and injuring 15 others on the evening of February 3, 2015.
The crash was the deadliest in Metro-North’s history as well as the deadliest such crash in the U.S. since the June 2009 Washington Metro train collision that killed eight passengers and injured 80.
The SUV got caught inside the crossing gate when it descended. The driver died along with five passengers on the train. The impact tore loose more than 450 feet of third rail. The SUV went through the front car of the train and broke into sections.
Riley DeJong was seated in the front car returning from classes in Manhattan that evening. She was 19 at the time and had just received her EMT-B certification as a member of the Lewisboro Volunteer Ambulance Corps.
The front car was filled with smoke, flames and fuel fumes from the burning SUV along with dead and dying passengers.
Miraculously, Riley was unhurt and immediately started triage and life-saving aid to the wounded prior to the arrival of other first responders. Passengers from the other cars could not reach the front car because the doors were jammed and the smoke held them back.
Riley removed waist belts from fellow wounded passengers and instructed an uninjured passenger to make a tourniquet out of one belt while Riley made one from another. Together, they provided hemorrhage control and treated a man with a double partial leg amputation. She then provided first aid, continued triage and instructed others around her on how to care for the wounded.
She maintained patient contact and cared for the double amputee victim until additional EMTs arrived, at which point they helped transfer him to the ambulance. After that patient left, Riley rode a Valhalla ambulance to the Westchester Medical Center and treated two patients en route.
Demonstrating great calm and courage, Riley helped to extinguish the fire and remove several victims to safety, providing care in the ambulance to Westchester Medical Center as well. She earned the appreciation of a grateful community and the respect and admiration of all New Yorkers, including many political leaders – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo among them – who recognized her with proclamations.