(Le Grand, California – June 19, 2012)
A 28-year-old resident of Merced, CA, on his way to work as a horse trainer, was seriously injured and later died of his injuries after his late-model, black Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck was struck and spun several times by a 5,000-ton, 60 mph Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train just before 10:00 A.M. Tuesday at a dangerous, unguarded private crossing of BNSF railroad tracks just outside of Le Grand, CA.
Juan Jose’ Hernandez was traveling northbound on Santa Fe Avenue, paralleling the BNSF tracks, when he turned off onto a private road leading to his friend’s ranch where he trained horses once a week. The BNSF train, also travelling north, struck the right front corner of the truck, spinning it, blowing out both doors, and ejecting the victim, who was thrown an estimated 70 feet as parts of his truck were strewn dozens of yards from the point of impact.
Hernandez’s truck ”turned right onto a private crossing, and just as it slowed, it met the train,” related California Highway Patrol Officer Chris Rodenburg. The crossing is equipped only with passive signage and completely lacks any form of automatic protection for motorists such as flashing lights, bells or crossing gates even though Federal Railroad Administration statistics show that the crossing is use by 42 trains daily at speeds as high as 79 mph.
“The truck looks terrible,” observed the victim’s friend, Rosendo Ceja, who rushed to the scene when he heard his friend had been involved in a serious accident.
The victim was flown to Mercy Hospital in Merced, CA suffering from major head injuries and arm fractures, but was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
As so often occurs, authorities said they did not suspect the deceased of having been under the influence of drugs or alcohol, thus allowing for speculation, and indicated no citations were issued.