6 killed when Florida train crashes into SUV at railroad crossing – USA TODAY

Six people are dead, including three children, after a train barreled into an SUV at a Florida railroad crossing over the weekend in what authorities are describing as a “violent” tragedy.
A family was on their way to a quinceañera Saturday evening when they encountered a crossing marked by a stop sign and a railroad crossing sign, but no crossing arms or warning bell in Plant City, Florida, according to Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister. Six people in the car died, including three children, officials said. No one on the train was injured.
One car passenger, Guillermo E. Gama, 23, suffered “extensive” injuries, including a brain bleed, ruptured kidney, and bruised lung, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. While he remains intubated and in critical condition, the sheriff’s office said he is expected to survive.
“The word devastating doesn’t even begin to describe the tragedy that unfolded here,” Chronister said in a statement.
The family’s car crossed the tracks into the path of a CSX train going 55 mph.
CROSS WITH CAUTION:Lack of oversight creates safety risks at private railroad crossings
Video footage reviewed by investigators showed the SUV pull up to the tracks and “slow crawl” across without stopping, Chronister said. Chronister said the train’s conductor tried to slow down and blared its horn, and a witness pulled over in another vehicle nearby also honked to get the driver’s attention before the crash at about 6:45 p.m.
“As you can imagine the carnage that’s created when these two collide,” he said. “The SUV we can see from the video begins to catapult and flip violently several times before it’s landed a distance from this crossing.”
The car looked like a “soft drink can that’s been smashed” after impact, he said.
Chronister said he believes there were no crossing arms or alarms at the crossing because it was on a road in a not well-traveled area.
CSX said in a statement Monday that the company has been working to close more crossings to improve safety and that decisions on what type of warnings or signs should be installed are made by local authorities.
“There are more distractions than ever for drivers and pedestrians, underscoring the need for people to always use caution around tracks and trains. We urge motorists to give their full attention when approaching railroad crossings and adhere to the posted traffic signs,” CSX said.
Five people who had been “violently ejected” from the car died, and a sixth died overnight in the hospital, the sheriff’s office confirmed Sunday.
They were identified as the driver, 52-year-old Jose G. Hernandez, and passengers Enedelia Hernandez, 50; Jakub A. Lopez, 17; Alyssa Hernandez, 17; Anaelia Hernandez, 22; and Julian Hernandez, 9.
Jessica Lang, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, said the passengers in the car driven by Jose Hernandez included his minor children, an adult child, and two friends of the children.
“Hillsborough County lost a family today, and our hearts are shattered,” Chronister said Saturday.
Chronister said the people were all believed to be residents of Plant City, about 25 miles outside of Tampa in central Florida with a population of about 40,000 people.
About 38% of more than 210,000 highway-rail grade crossings across the nation are private, according to a 2019 Federal Railroad Administration report. Between 2007-2017, the agency said there were 3,427 accidents at private crossings, accounting for about 14% of all crossing accidents within that timeframe.
In that same time period, the agency reported an average of 29 fatalities per year at private crossings. Comparatively, an average of 232 fatalities were reported at public crossings. 
Private crossings tend to fly under the radar, receiving far less scrutiny and funding than their public counterparts. Accidents are 3½ times more likely to occur at public crossings but, in nearly half of the states, USA TODAY found last year that a private crossing logged the most accidents or tied for the highest number.
Contributing: Minnah Arshad, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

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