updated 4/27/2006 8:52:03 PM ET 2006-04-28T00:52:03

A company that stores records for the Long Island Railroad lost personal data including Social Security numbers for about 17,000 of the transit agency's current and former employees, apparently while the information was being delivered by a driver.

New York police on Thursday said the loss also involved data tapes belonging to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It was reported by the driver while his van was parked outside a VA hospital in the Bronx.

The records storage company, Boston-based Iron Mountain Inc., subsequently confirmed the loss also involved records of another customer besides the railroad, but declined to confirm whether the customer was the VA.

Iron Mountain spokeswoman Melissa Mahoney said that customer's missing records did not involve any private or sensitive data, and in such circumstances Iron Mountain does not publicly identify the customer.

Iron Mountain said its investigators believe the loss was the result of an accident, rather than theft.

However, a New York police spokeswoman, Teresa Farello, said the case was being investigated as a suspected burglary, not as a missing property case.

The Long Island Rail Road sent a letter from its president on Monday notifying about 17,000 current and former employees of the data loss, which was reported Thursday by Newsday.

The investigation began after a driver on April 6 reported two containers storing backup tapes were missing, Iron Mountain said.

Farello said the driver contacted authorities after noticing outside the Bronx VA hospital that the containers were missing. The van had made other stops in Manhattan before the driver discovered the problem.

Investigators found no signs of forced entry into the van, Farello said.

Long Island Railroad spokesman Brian Dolan said the railroad's missing tapes contained the names, addresses, Social Security numbers and salary figures for about 17,000 current, former and retired employees, including nearly everyone who has worked for the agency.

Iron Mountain said in a statement that it was "extremely unlikely" anyone who found the railroad's tapes could access the information, because it would require "highly specialized expertise, specific software and sophisticated technology equipment."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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