Three men who had taken a shortcut to circumvent a stopped freight train were killed instantly as an Amtrak passenger train hit their truck as they crossed the tracks, police confirmed on Friday.
The three, who were described as Hispanic males between 20 and 30, were all killed instantly on impact. No injuries were reported among the 217 passengers and crew on board the train, said Vernae Graham, a spokeswoman for Amtrak.
The train was traveling at more than 70 miles per hour, according to Josh McConnell, a public information officer for the California Highway Patrol. The car was split in half by the impact, and the engine was thrown more than 40ft from the crash site.
McConnell said that the train’s engineer reported pain, but was not hospitalized.
The three men in the truck had taken a detour along a private road along land owned by the Madera Water District in order to circumnavigate a stopped freight train. They drove along the side of the road, then turned at around 12.30pm to cross at a private crossing without seeing the oncoming passenger train.
There was no opportunity for the train to slow down, McConnell said, and though the investigation was still ongoing, he said, there was no suspicion that anyone was under the influence of alcohol, and indicated that there was no fault on the part of the train driver.
“When those trains are traveling at that speed it takes them a very, very long distance to slow or come to a stop, and I believe the truck turned right in front of the train – the driver of the truck had no idea there was a train [coming],” he said.
McConnell added that anyone approaching railway tracks should act with “extreme caution”.