Three killed as Amtrak train collides with car at ‘dangerous’ crossing in California

The crossing at the rural site did not have guard rails or a train signal and neighbors had complained of safety issues in the past

An Amtrak train in California collided with a vehicle at an unprotected crossing along a rural dirt road on Sunday, leaving three people dead and at least two others injured.

Authorities said the passenger train was traveling westbound when it struck a sedan crossing the tracks near Brentwood, California, about 60 miles east of San Francisco, around 1pm. The crash sent the vehicle into a parked SUV roughly 60ft away, the East Bay Times reported.

Mercedes Regaldo, 51, Maria Nieves, 72, and Julia Mondragon, 41, were killed in the incident, according to the Contra Costa county coroner. The deceased were pronounced dead at the scene and two people, including a child, were airlifted to a hospital with serious injuries, officials said. No one on the train, which was carrying nearly 90 people, was injured.

The crossing where the crash occurred did not have guard rails or a train signal, which authorities said made it “highly potentially dangerous” as trains travel at up to 80mph through the area. Steve Aubert, a fire marshal with the East Contra Costa fire protection district, said there are one to two collisions at the crossing each year. “It’s in a rural area where there are no guards or signals,” Aubert said.

A black and white SUV marked ‘Sheriff’ sits next to train tracks in a rural area. A stop sign in front of the tracks warns of the ‘private crossing’.
The crossing where the crash occurred did not have guard rails or a train signal and officials said there are one to two collisions there each year. Photograph: Jose Carlos Fajardo/AP

The crossing is in a remote area and past collisions there have involved agricultural vehicles transporting items such as vegetables. In 2011, more than 30 Amtrak passengers suffered injuries when the train they were traveling on collided with a farm truck carrying corn.

Sunday’s crash reportedly occurred just 300ft from a fundraiser for the family of a Brentwood resident who recently died. Fatima Jimenez, who was attending the fundraiser, told the East Bay Times she helped pull a passenger from the wreckage and saw two woman dead on the ground and an injured child.

A neighbor said he had complained about safety problems in the intersection for years to no avail. Mitch Bloomfield told the East Bay Times he had repeatedly asked BNSF Railway, the track owner, to add a signed railroad crossing in the area, but they did not and he placed his own signs around the tracks warning of trains.

BNSF Railway and the Contra Costa county sheriff’s department are investigating the incident.


Dani Anguiano in Los Angeles

The GuardianTramp

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