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Last 3 years have been especially fatal for NJ/NY commuters in train crashes

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NEW YORK -- Alexis Valle, 24, of Bergenfield, New Jersey — who’s five months pregnant — was planning to catch a train in Hoboken to get to her Wall Street job in lower Manhattan Thursday.

The New Jersey Transit crash in Hoboken changed her plans.

“I got four staples in my head,” she told PIX11’s Ellyn Marks. “The baby’s fine, but the ceiling of the train fell on my head.”

Valle was lucky to get out of the first car to safety, after a crash that killed a woman on the platform and seriously injured dozens of other commuters.

This is at least the third time, in just three years, that train commuters in the New Jersey/New York region have been involved in crashes that resulted in fatalities.

The most recent involved an Amtrak train, bound for New York’s Penn Station, that derailed north of Philadelphia on May 12, 2015.

Eight people were killed, including Jim Gaines — a software architect for the Associated Press who lived in New Jersey.

Rachel Jacobs was a wife and mother of two, returning to Manhattan from Philadelphia.

Derrick Griffith was a dean with Medgar Evers College.

Justin Zemser of Queens was a Navy midshipman.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced in May this year the Amtrak engineer, Brandon Bostian, was very likely distracted by radio dispatches from another train and “may have lost situational awareness of where he was” before the crash.

Bostian had accelerated to a high rate of speed, more than 100 miles per hour, before navigating a curve where the speed limit should have been 50 miles per hour.

Before the crash, Bostian had an exemplary work record with “no past performance issues,” according to the NTSB.

There was no evidence at all that Bostian had used a cell phone or any substances while working.

The NTSB noted that if the cab had been equipped with a “positive train control” device, it could have AUTOMATICALLY slowed the train down, when it exceeded the speed limit.

Just three months before the Amtrak crash, a fiery accident in Valhalla, New York killed six people, when a Metro North train hit a Mercedes Benz that was stuck on the tracks, caught under a railroad barrier.

Ellen Schaeffer Brody, 49, of Edgemont, New York had gotten out of the vehicle, after the crossing gate got stuck on top of her Mercedes.

When the train hit her car, it’s believed a dislodged third rail ignited the vehicle’s fuel tank, causing an explosion that started a fire in the first car of the train.

Five people were killed in that car, along with Brody.

On Dec. 1, 2013, the debate over “positive train control” devices had come to the forefront, when the engineer of a Metro North train heading from Poughkeepsie to New York’s Grand Central derailed near the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx. Four people were killed.

The engineer, William Rockefeller, later admitted he had gone into some kind of daze before coming around the deadly curve. The speed limit was 55 miles per hour, but the train was racing around the bend at more than 100 miles per hour.

When the NTSB released its report on the Spuyten Duyvil crash in 2014, it concluded that “positive train control” would have prevented the accident.

It did say Rockefeller’s lack of alertness as the train came around the curve was the most direct cause of the derailment.

But the NTSB said there were contributing factors to Rockefeller’s lack of focus.

A medical exam showed that he had issues with sleep apnea, which affected his ability to rest in the weeks before the crash, when his work shift had changed.

It turns out there was a crash five years ago at the same, Hoboken terminal where the train hit the platform today.

On Mother’s Day 2011, a PATH train hit the bumpers at the end of the line.

Dozens of people were injured, but no one was killed.

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