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SUV Plummets onto LIRR Tracks in Brooklyn, Killing One

The driver of an SUV on Friday crashed into the concrete barrier and fell down onto the LIRR train tracks, killing one man and critically injuring a woman inside. Photo: Julianne Cuba

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A 70-year-old man died and his passenger critically injured when the driver with a record of recklessness behind the wheel drove an Audi SUV from Vanderbilt Avenue onto the Long Island Rail Road tracks on Atlantic Avenue on Friday.

It's unclear what happened, but the force of the crash suggests incredible speed. One witness told Streetsblog that the driver, who was later identified by police as Francois Cadely of Brooklyn, turned north from Pacific Street towards Atlantic Avenue at about 12:45 p.m. when he veered into a concrete Jersey barrier and chain-link fence on the west side of Vanderbilt. But neither stopped the luxury SUV from nose diving onto the tracks.

“I thought the concrete barrier was gonna stop it but it didn't and it just went over," said the witness, who asked for anonymity. She said the driver looked like he could have been going 30-to-40 miles per hour. "The two ladies that were walking, the car just missed. She had a delayed reaction and screamed just realizing she almost got hit, and I was like, ‘What did I just see?’”

A chunk of the concrete barrier is missing, right where the SUV crashed into and where two women were walking by. Photo: Julianne Cuba
A chunk of the concrete barrier is missing, right where the SUV crashed into and where two women were walking by. Photo: Julianne Cuba
A chunk of the concrete barrier is missing, right where the SUV crashed into and where two women were walking by. Photo: Julianne Cuba

Another witness who lives next door told Streetsblog that he heard the car hit the jersey barrier before falling nearly 50 feet down.

“I saw the car falling. It was crazy. We saw the people, they were both on their sides, still in the car,” said Ryan, who asked his last name not be used.

Police had limited information, but are already claiming that the crash could have been the result of a “medical episode” or even a “freak accident,” according to an NYPD spokesperson and one officer from the 78th Precinct who was on the scene, but was clearly not properly trained in the word "accident" (of which there are none). But information later sent out by police does not mention a medical episode, or any cause of the fatal crash.

The NYPD’s narrative also conflicts with the witnesses. Cops said the driver came out of a McDonald’s drive-thru and raced across Vanderbilt Avenue, "performing a u-turn at the location," when he plowed into the fence and concrete barrier, sending a large chunk of it crashing down onto the tracks along with the SUV and victims. The 60-year-old woman who was in the front passenger seat remains in critical condition.

Officers could not say whether Cadely was speeding or distracted at the time of the collision, but camera violations associated with his license plate reveal a history of reckless driving. The Audi’s license plate has racked up 13 speeding tickets since 2019, including four in the last year alone, according to city records.

The SUV on the LIRR train tracks. Photo: Julianne Cuba
The SUV on the LIRR train tracks. Photo: Julianne Cuba
The SUV on the LIRR train tracks. Photo: Julianne Cuba

And cops have been quick to call previous fatal crashes a medical episode without any evidence. One notorious instance was the case of 37-year-old Xing Long Lin, who was killed by driver Maro Andrianou in April 2021. Cops claimed just minutes after the fatal crash that Andrianou, who did not face any criminal charges from the Queens District Attorney, had suffered a medical episode. But Andrianou’s ex-husband denied that theory, and the narrative about what caused her Mercedes-Benz to fly down the road and into Lin soon shifted.

Police said the investigation is ongoing.

This story has been updated with more information from police.

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