Saturday afternoon, a sport utility vehicle and a light-rail train collided in Sacramento, killing three people, The Sacramento Bee reports. The victims were two adults and an 18-month-old baby who had been traveling in the SUV. Police said that a fourth person who had been in the SUV was wounded, and taken to a hospital with serious injuries.
The Bee reports that officials for Regional Transit stated that the accident might be the worst light-rail accident the system has experienced in its 25 years of operation.
The January 28, 2012 accident occurred when the train, which was heading south on the Meadowview line, hit the SUV around 4:10 p.m. on 26th Avenue, pushing the vehicle roughly 20 yards. Fifty passengers had been on the train at the time of the collision. The Bee reports that a police spokesman, Sgt. Andrew Pettit, stated the train remained on the tracks after the crash, but the SUV was flipped over and landed upside down.
A woman who lives near the accident site said that the collision sounded like an explosion. The woman, Barbara Rodriguez, said that her friend and one of her family members rushed to the crash site and did what they could to help until police arrived. The witnesses found a baby, and woman and man who had died. Another woman, according to the witnesses, was still alive.
Sgt. Petit stated in The Bee’s story that 17 passengers who had been on the train were injured, but most of the victims’ injuries were minor. Among the injured passengers, three adults and three children were taken by responders to UC Davis Medical Center. According to a spokeswoman for the hospital, the condition of all the train’s victims was fair.
A 13-year-old boy, D’Angelo Charles, who had been on the train at the time of the collision, said in The Bee’s story that the only thing he heard was a “boom” and then he saw the car flip. The collision had knocked him into a pole inside the train. He was one of the train’s passengers who were at UC Davis Medical Center where doctors were treating him for an injured lower back and neck, and also a headache.
The Sacramento Bee reports that Mike Wiley, Regional Transit’s general manager, said the warning lights were blinking and the crossing bars were down as the train approached. He said the driver, who had been behind the wheel of a Nissan Pathfinder, steered around another car and then around the bars. After examining video from the train track crossing that recorded the crash as it happened, Wiley stated that the train ran directly into the side of the SUV. The Bee reports that Wiley also said the train operator engaged the emergency brake just before colliding with the SUV. Because of sound walls at the sides of the tracks, visibility is limited, Wiley added, and he also explained that the train had been traveling at 50 to 55 miles per hour.
Sgt. Pettit stated that because three trains had been traveling through the crossing, one after another, the crossing bars had been down for some time. He said he didn’t believe the crossing arms lifted after each train passed, and that might have played a role in the SUV driver’s actions.
According to neighbors and Regional Transit officials, it is difficult for drivers to see if a train is approaching because of the sound walls that border the tracks. Barbara Rodriguez’s husband, Antonio, had stated for The Bee that a driver can’t see unless a car is right on the tracks. He also stated that he and other people in the neighborhood had seen more than one car drive around barriers, at least several times over the last few months, and it concerned them that an accident might result.
The Bee reports that Regional Transit General Manager Wiley said there is no problem with the intersection. A Regional Transit operations chief, Mark Longergan, said that 55 miles per hour speeds for trains in that area are common. He explained the gates are timed to block cars from the tracks at those speeds, and if the trains were to travel more slowly, the gates would be down too long. Employees of the light rail tested and examined the safety equipment after the collision.
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