(Trinidad, Colorado – June 26, 2016)
Two wonderful, loving parents and three of their four young children were killed at about 9:45 A.M., MDT Sunday as their northbound 2005 Chrysler Town & Country minivan, heading for church services, was struck and destroyed at the extremely dangerous and unguarded BNSF intersection of Las Animas County Road 75.1 three miles north of the city.
Killed were parents Steve and Christina Miller, and their young daughters, Abigail, Kathryn and Ellianna. There ages were not available, but the parents are thought to be in their early to mid thirties and no child older than six. The family members were killed when Amtrak’s Southwest Chief with 286 passengers on board collided with the minivan in 79 mph territory and on a stretch of track FRA claims carries only two trains daily. The Southwest Chief is the same train that derailed on March 14, 2016 near Cimarron, Kansas, injuring over twenty passengers.
Sole survivor was four-year-old daughter Heidi, who was airlifted to Denver Children’s Hospital for treatment of serious injuries. One other passenger was pronounced dead after being taken to an undisclosed hospital.
According to FRA crash records, the crossing, which was not equipped with any active warning devices, such as lights and gates had been the site two previous collisions. One of the previous collisions involved an Amtrak train, where one person was injured on August 27, 2003, as well as one earlier non-injury collision. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this collision would not have happened. Amtrak, BNSF, 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%.
The train struck the vehicle on the passenger side. Colorado State Patrol immediately discounted any drug or alcohol involvement.