Railroad News

Signal Integrity Questioned when Amtrak Train Killed Father at BNSF Crossing

(Madera Ranchos, California – June 1, 2014)

Suspicious circumstances surround the tragic death of a 66-year-old father at the signalized grade crossing of Avenue 12 and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway tracks in Madera County, CA at about 9:30 A.M. Sunday morning, as reports of past crossing signal malfunctions have surfaced since the tragedy this weekend.  

Raul Moncada, Sr. was headed west on Avenue 12 near Madera Ranchos, CA on his way to church when his SUV collided with a Bakersfield-to-Sacramento Amtrak train with 73 passengers on board, killing both Moncado as well as injuring a passenger as the victim’s vehicle struck the train’s first car.

But Moncado’s son, Julio, revealed Monday that several people who live near the BNSF railroad tracks have come forward, offering information that the crossing gates’ erratic operation may have been a factor in the tragedy.

“I guess there was a 911 call stating there was a malfunction with the crossing arms,” Julio told KMPH, Channel 26 Reporter Erik Rosales. “I talked to a few people that at 6 o’clock in the evening the previous night, that the arms kept going up and down. Then, they said only one of them was stable,” Julio related.

“We’ll do our best to determine what happened and whether or not the crossing arms and warning lights were functioning properly at the time of the collision,” said California Highway Patrol Sgt. Lincoln McKenna to Reporter Mariana Jacob of Fresno’s ABC-affiliate KFSN-TV, Channel 30.

The crossing is no stranger to tragedy, as Sunday’s accident was the 10th to occur there, with Moncado’s death marking the fifth fatality and the Amtrak passenger’s injury being the fifth non-fatal injury. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, a daily average of 42 BNSF freight and Amtrak passenger trains cross there daily at top allowable speeds of 79 mph.

“My mom is really strong in her faith and I think that is what is helping her cope with this because she already went through it once,” said Julio.

Moncado, Sr’s eldest son, former USMC and U.S. Army Sergeant Raul Moncado, Jr., was killed on his second tour of duty in Iraq in 2009, when a roadside bomb exploded near the vehicle he was in. A section of Road 37, between Avenue 12 and 13, near where his father was killed Sunday, was named in honor of Raul, Jr. by the Madera County Board of Commissioners in 2011.