The driver of the car was killed when the train slammed into the vehicle around 6:30 pm and five passengers aboard died after flames ripped through a carriage, NBC New York reported.
Metro-North, the train operator, confirmed a Harlem Line train had struck a vehicle but did not immediately announce fatalities.
Authorities scrambled to help hundreds of shell-shocked passengers off the train, which had departed from Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan, the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) and passengers told NBC.
The collision occurred in Valhalla, just outside New York City, reports said, with several US media outlets reporting a dozen people were hurt.
Pictures posted on Twitter showed a train car ablaze with thick black smoke billowing into the evening sky. Others showed what appeared to be the same carriage, gutted by smoke and fire and with its windows shattered.
Passenger Neil Rader was sitting in the middle-back of the train when he felt a “small jolt,” he told NBC.
“It felt not even like a short stop, and then the train just completely stopped,” he said.
Frantic passengers had to evacuate by breaking glass on the doors to get out, said Rader. He added that he saw 50 to 60 ambulances at the scene.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” he said.
Justin Kaback, 26, a passenger in the third train car, said he was doing his daily commute home when the train felt like it hit a bump, he told The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
But then people began entering his car from the front of the train, reporting gas smells.
“I started moving,” Kaback said. “Nobody wanted to yell out, ‘The train’s on fire’ because there would have been a panic.” (AFP)