(Orlando, Florida – November 29, 2012)
It was a case of too little, too late as the 44-year-old driver of a dump truck loaded with crushed rock died instantly when his westbound truck was struck and destroyed by a 10-car Miami-bound Amtrak train with 140 passengers and 13 crew members on board at about 11:07 A.M. Thursday morning at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of Glen Rose Road and Florida Dept. of Transportation-owned tracks..
Seeram Matadial of Orlando, FL was driving the first of two dump trucks hauling rock across the railroad tracks used by both Amtrak and CSX but belonging to the State of Florida on Glen Rose Road, adjacent to South Orange Avenue, which parallels the railroad tracks. The crossing has no active protective devices such as flashing lights, bells or crossing gates, instead being “protected” solely by two standard, passive railroad crossbucks and two standard traffic stop signs. The state purchased the rail line in 2010 for expansion of “Sun Rail” commuter passenger service scheduled to begin in 2014.
The train, traveling at an estimated 60 to 70 mph, struck Matadial’s truck as the driver following him looked on in horror. The truck was cut nearly in half, dragging most of it at least a quarter of a mile, scattering truck parts along the railroad tracks. The victim’s body was thrown 150 feet from the point of the collision.
Eye witness Diana Kurzone said “When the train hit the truck it went up in the air and back down and glass was flying everywhere.”
“They (FDOT) desperately need to correct the problem. Hopefully they can do something now that this has happened,” she continued. But the accident was neither the first at the crossing, nor was the fatality the first one there, either. Since 1996, the crossing has experienced six accidents resulting in a total of five deaths!
Next spring, the crossing will receive safety and protection improvements. “In other words, we are going to have full bars that come down, or arms or lights here,” declared FDOT spokesman Steve Olson of the Glen Rose/FDOT crossing.
At least 15 Amtrak passengers and two train crew members were treated at the scene for various injuries, with 11 of them being transported to area hospitals for further treatment.
The rocks being hauled in the truck’s bed were thrown into an adjacent parking lot, damaging a large number of vehicles parked there. Due to its proximity to the railroad tracks, Orange Avenue was shut down for a considerable distance and traffic was rerouted, causing the use of about 50 police officers and an equal number of fire department personnel to perform various duties at the accident scene.