Railroad News

Southern California Rocked by Pair of Passenger Train Crossing Collisions in 12 Hours

(Oxnard and Menlo Park, CA – February 23-24, 2015)

Two catastrophic crossing collisions plagued police and emergency response personnel in two Los Angeles-area communities within the short span of 12 hours Monday evening and early Tuesday morning, killing a female motorist in one accident and injuring dozens of Caltrain passengers in the other.

The first accident, which involved a Los Angeles-bound Caltrain  and an Acura SUV at the crossing of Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board Railroad tracks and Ravenswood Avenue in the city of Menlo Park, CA at about 4:46 P.M., PST Monday resulted in the death of the 30-year-old, as yet unidentified woman. The woman’s vehicle was stuck in traffic when crossing lights came on and gates came down after she became stuck in stopped traffic on the crossing. That crossing accommodates 94 Metrolink commuter, Caltrain passenger and Union Pacific freight trains daily at a top allowable speed of 79 mph. The woman’s SUV was knocked some 40 feet away by the force of the train, which she seemed not to see as she remained entrapped on the double-track crossing. She had to be extricated from the wreckage of the totaled vehicle and was taken to Stanford Hospital in critical condition, but succumbed to her injuries shortly after her arrival there.

“She just got caught in traffic,” said Caltrain Spokesman Mark Simon, adding that “Apparently, (she) wasn’t paying real close attention.” KPIX-TV Channel 5 said that “People familiar with the area said the road is often busy and congested, and some say the intersection is an accident waiting to happen.”

Indeed, according to Federal Railroad Administration statistics, Monday’s tragedy was the sixth collision to occur there and has recorded two deaths and two non-fatal injuries.

Early Tuesday morning at about 5:44 A.M., PST at the crossing of Union Pacific Railroad tracks and Rice Avenue in the community of Oxnard, some 65 miles northwest of Los Angeles, an LA-bound Caltrain commuter passenger train slammed into a truck and trailer hauling farm equipment that had become stuck at the crossing where a dozen daily passenger and freight trains cross daily. And it wasn’t the first collision between trains and highway vehicles, as, again according to FRA records, the intersection has been the site of 14 accidents resulting in three deaths and one non-fatal injury.

The train, traveling at the maximum-allowable 70 mph speed for the crossing, derailed the locomotive cab car and three more passenger cars, two of which wound up on their sides, and injured at least 30 people aboard the train. The truck burst into flames as the train hit it, and was virtually consumed by the conflagration.

The driver of the vehicle was not at the scene, but was found later, dazed, about a mile from the scene.