Mom, Museum Curator, Finance Execs Among 6 Victims in Deadly Metro-North Crash

A mother of three, a museum curator, a research scientist and three finance executives were the six people killed when a Metro-North train crashed into an SUV stuck between crossing gates in Westchester Tuesday, officials and those who knew them tell NBC 4 New York.

Ellen Brody, Eric Vandercar, Joseph Nadol, Walter Liedtke, Robert Dirks and Aditya Tomar were identified Wednesday by friends, family and officials as the people who died when a train on the Metro-North's Harlem line crashed into a Mercedes SUV stopped on the tracks in Valhalla.

The crash caused the front of the train to burst into flames and the electrified third rail to slice into a train car as the commuter train pushed the SUV nearly 10 car lengths down the tracks. Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said medical officials are using dental records to definitively identify those who died because all but one were severely burned in the fire.

Fifteen people on the train, including the engineer, were hurt, some of them seriously.

As families, friends and the tri-state area cope with the tragedy amid an ongoing NTSB investigation into how and why it happened, clearer pictures are emerging of those who died.


Brody and her husband, author and journalist Alan Brody, had three daughters in their teens and 20s, and were active in Chabad of the Rivertowns throughout the synagogue's 12 years, according to Rabbi Benjy Silverman. Brody helped found a student news network in her town and was involved in almost everything at her synagogue, friends said.

"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.

Brody, 49, was identified by the owner of the Chappaqua jewelry store where she worked for 15 years, ICD Contemporary Jewelry.

"She was our beloved colleague, and we pray for her and other families whose loved ones were lost and injured in yesterday's tragedy," the owner said in a statement to NBC 4 New York Wednesday.

Co-worker and friend Varda Singer said, "I describe her as a saint, because she was the most selfless person."

Not knowing how Brody got stuck on the train tracks, makes the tragedy that much more unbearable, Singer said.

"She's a very responsible person, a very reliable person," she added. "I just cannot believe that she's gone."

Brody was mindful of safety, said Paul Feiner, a longtime friend and the town supervisor in Greenburgh, a community near the crash site.


Vandercar, a 53-year-old married father, worked for Morgan Stanley for 27 years before leaving his position as executive director of the municipal finance group in January 2014 to work as a senior managing director at Mesirow Financial, according to both companies.

"Eric was not only a pillar in our industry, he was a great partner and friend to many," Mesirow Financial said in a statement.

"Those of us who worked with Eric for many years at Morgan Stanley are deeply saddened by this tragic loss," a spokesman for the bank said in a statement. "Our hearts and prayers go out to his family at this difficult time."

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.''

Vandercar's family told NBC 4 New York they were meeting with a rabbi and declined to comment further. A woman walking near Vandercar's home said he was "a wonderful husband and loving father."


One of the three finance executive killed in the crash, Nadol, 42, did corporate and investment banking at JPMorgan Chase & Co. He was a managing director and analyst who covered the aerospace and defense industries. He joined JPMorgan in 2001, after five years at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette.

Nadol was "a wonderful colleague who always took the time to mentor and encourage junior analysts and represented the highest standards of J.P. Morgan global research," stated an email sent to the firm's employees. "He'll be remembered for his many personal qualities, especially his thoughtfulness toward co-workers and his sense of humor." 

Nadol earned a bachelor's degree in government at Harvard in 1995 before joining Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette as a real estate analyst. He moved to JPMorgan in 2001 and debuted on the All-America Research Team two years later as a runner-up in Aerospace & Defense Electronics. 

Nadol was "warm, caring and always had an infectious smile on his face," said Steven Packer, a close friend of Nadol who works as a sales account manager at NBC 4 New York.

He leaves behind his wife Jen Nadol, an author, and three young children: Joey, Sam and Jacob. 


Tomar also worked at JPMorgan --in asset management.

In a statement, JPMorgan called the loss of two of its employees "heartbreaking."

"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 company's statement continued.

The Danbury News-Times reports that Dee Persaud, who identified herself as Tomar's mother-in-law, says his loss has left her family "shocked and grieving." 


Liedtke was a "brilliant, respected curator and scholar of Dutch and Flemish paintings who was part of the Met family for 35 years," said Elyse Topalian, vice president for communications for The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

"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," Topalian said in the statement.

With a master's degree from Brown University and a doctorate from the University of London's Courtauld Institute, Liedtke taught at Ohio State University for four years in the 1970s before getting a fellowship and then a job at the Met, according to a 2009 interview on the Dutch and Flemish art site Codart. He relished working among its large, specialized curatorial staff -- and its collection.

"When asked what my favorite painting in the Met might be, I sometimes explain that historians don't think that way,'' he said, "and then answer frankly that it depends on my frame of mind."


Father Michael Dirks told NBC News his son Robert Dirks was married and had two children, 5-year-old Owen and 2-year-old Phoebe. He earned his bachelor's degree from Wabash College and a PhD in chemistry at the California Institute of Technology, where he met his wife at a bridge tournament. He was a scientist at D.E. Shaw Research in Manhattan, where his wife had also formerly worked.

"He was a guy you could always count on," his father told NBC News, saying his son love life, his family and playing the bassoon.

His company's website said Robert Dirks 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,'" Michael Dirks told the Times.

Robert Dirks was born in Bangkok, Thailand, where his mother was from.

-- Michael George contributed to this report 

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