(Diboll, Texas – March 8, 2012)
As three occupants of a Jeep Wrangler Sahara died Thursday afternoon about 2:00 P.M. when their vehicle either stalled or became stuck on Union Pacific railroad tracks at the Maynard Street crossing in the east Texas community of Diboll and was struck by a 62-car UPRR freight train, local police were told their investigation into the tragic triple fatality was not a priority with the railroad.
Although it was still unclear as to why the vehicle became immobile on the tracks, Diboll Police Sgt. Brandan Lovell said he hoped video taken from the nose camera of the locomotive will answer the question. However, Sergeant Lovell was told by the UPRR that it will take at least two weeks before DPD will be allowed to see the video even though Union Pacific had wrapped up its investigation by Thursday night.
Sofia Carrillo, 54, was a passenger in the Jeep driven by Tavita Carrillo, 19, as was 18-month-old King “Rey” Sebastian Compean, who was properly secured in a toddler car seat, and all three were pronounced dead at the scene by Precinct No. 5 Justice of the Peace Esther Barger after their vehicle was hit and carried 100 yards down the tracks before being cast into a trackside ditch.
Sofia was Tavita’s mother, and the young boy was a family member, the son of Diboll Junior High School track coach Alejandra Carillo Compean, who was at a track meet in Corrigan, TX when she was notified of the tragedy. Meanwhile, a man who was thought to be the husband of Sofia came to the scene in a visibly shaken condition, and emergency officials were attempting to calm him.
The Maynard Street crossing, which is equipped with lights, gates and bells, has a tragic history, as this was the fifth accident and second fatality at the crossing. Four people have now been killed and another four injured in the five tragedies.
More than 100 friends and family members commemorated Tavita’s life in a candlelight vigil at her home Friday evening.
Earlier, a deeply saddened Diboll School Supt. Gary Martel said “We’re extremely sad for the family,” adding that “Diboll’s a close-knit community, and the Carillo family is a large family and thus a lot of families are affected.”
The Diboll Volunteer Fire Dept., Lufkin Fire Dept., Diboll Police and Texas Dept. of Public Safety all responded to the accident, as did Union Pacific police and operating officials. While Union Pacific officials had access to the locomotive videotapes and were able to immediately view them in conducting their investigation, the videos were withheld from local law enforcement authorities. The reasons for withholding the tapes are unknown. Without this key piece of evidence the videotape, more reliable than an eyewitness unless “photo-shopped” is essential for local law enforcement to determine the cause of the accident.
It is typical for a railroad to withhold critical evidence which exposes the company to liability. Keeping these tapes from local law enforcement should be dealt with severely by state and local authorities.