KELSO, Wash. (KOIN) — Officials said 2 people — an adult man and woman — died instantly after an Amtrak train struck their vehicle in southwest Washington Friday morning.
The Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office said the collision happened at 9:30 a.m. when the car pulled onto the tracks at a private crossing at Horseshoe Estates — about 6 miles north of Kelso. The train was traveling from Eugene servicing Seattle. Officials said no other trains were in the area at the time of the crash.
Sheriff Mark Nelson said a mom of one of the victims — who witnessed the crash — crossed the tracks first in another car and the victims followed, which is when their car was hit.
“They came across the tracks, noticed the train was coming,” Nelson said. “The vehicle behind either didn’t look or thought that they may make it across and ended up right in front of the train and was struck.”
After hitting the car, the train wasn’t able to stop for about half a mile.
There were about 200 passengers on the train, but no one was injured, according to Amtrak.
BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said there are stop signs and railroad crossing signs at the intersection where the collision occurred.
The tracks were shut down and all Amtrak and freight trains were being held as officials investigated and cleared the scene. The car was removed from the tracks around noon, however, the train didn’t move until after 3 p.m. due to mechanical issues from the collision.
As of early Friday afternoon, one lane of train traffic was open on one set of tracks.
Nelson said they’ll review the records for the train to see how fast it was traveling and whether or not it signaled for the crossing.
There’s already a memorial at the crossing and according to neighbor David McColm — it’s for a young girl who was killed there in the recent past.
McColm said neighbors disagree on whether there should be controlled crossing as they worry about traffic flow.
“People need to be more aware that trains are bigger than cars and there’s a stop sign there for a reason. Make sure sure’s not a train coming before you go across the tracks,” McColm said.
BNSF said Friday’s incident is the 5th and 6th fatality this year on one of its track in Washington state.
Nelson said he has “seen just about enough of these” type of accidents and reminded the public of how important it is to be careful near railroad tracks.
“If you’re crossing a railroad track, please be absolutely positive that there is nothing coming,” Nelson said. “You can get out of the way and stay out of the way because they’re very unforgiving.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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