(Las Animas, Colorado – September 20, 2019)
Amtrak’s Southwest Chief passenger train struck a Toyota Carola and killed local man and woman early Friday morning at 8:30 AM, MDT. The train had 126 passengers and a dozen crew members on board. The collision occurred at the dangerous and unguarded crossing of Bent County, CO Road 8.75 and BNSF rails near Las Animas, CO.
Killed were Samuel R. Cornejo and his passenger, Gabriela Martinez, both 35 years old and both from Las Animas.
The unguarded and now deadly crossing does not have any active warning devices, such as lights and gates, to warn drivers like the victims of the approach of a daily average of 14 BNSF and Amtrak trains that cross CR 8.75 at a maximum speed of 79 mph. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this collision would not have happened. BNSF, Amtrak, and Operation Lifesaver all know that lights and gates are the most effective type of protection at railroad crossings. Studies that have been conducted over fifty years ago confirm that lights and gates offer the ability to drastically reduce the number of vehicle/train accidents by as much as 96%.
KOAA-TV, Channel 5 in Pueblo, CO Reporter Melissa Greathouse confirmed that “The crash happened at an intersection with Railroad Crossing markers, but no crossing gates or lights.”
Investigating troopers from the Colorado State Patrol said both victims were properly wearing their seat belts and that alcohol and/or drugs were not being considered as factors in the double tragedy.