(Plant City, Florida – September 24, 2023)
Five individuals, including two parents and their three children were killed by a CSX freight train at a known dangerous, unguarded crossing in Hillsborough County, Florida. According to the Hillsborough Sherrif’s Office, the vehicle was traveling to a quinceanera just across the tracks when the collision occurred. Five of the six occupants were ejected from the vehicle.
The driver 52-year-old Jose Guadalupe Hernandez initially survived, but succumbed to his injuries overnight after being rushed to a local hospital. Hernandez’s wife Enedalia, 50, and three children – Julian, 9, Alyssa, 17, and Anaelia, 22 – were ejected from the back of the vehicle upon impact. All were confirmed killed from the collision. Jakub Lopez, 17, who was a friend of one of the siblings also died in the crash. Guillermo Gama, 23, Anaelia’s boyfriend who was a passenger in the front of the car, is the sole survivor and is in critical condition at Lakeland hospital.
According to the Sheriff’s office, the victim’s vehicle approached the railroad crossing slowly at a crawl’s pace and apparently never saw the train prior to impact. There were no active warning devices, such as lights, gates, to warn the motorists of an oncoming train. Vegetation on the railroad’s right of way may have also contributed to obscure the view of an oncoming train.
The crossing where this collision occurred accommodates a daily average of twelve trains at typical speeds from 60 to 79 mph. The crossing was also the site of a tragic collision that occurred on February 4, 2021. The February 2021 collision killed Jasmine Ford.
The crossing does not have any active warning devices, such as lights and gates despite the prior fatality, high-speed train operations, and frequent train usage. There are only passive signs at this crossing. It is virtually certain that the addition of lights and gates could have prevented this tragedy and the tragedy before it. 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 collisions by as much as 96%.
Hillsborough Sherriff’s Office is continuing to investigate this collision.