Amtrak Train Slams Into SUV

Times Staff Writer

An Amtrak train carrying about 300 people barreled into a sport utility vehicle on the tracks at a Glendale railroad crossing Thursday, seconds after the driver ran from her SUV, authorities said.

Neither the 53-year-old motorist nor anyone on the train was injured.

The crash occurred just a few miles from the Buena Vista Street crossing in Burbank where a Metrolink train hit a pickup earlier this month. The truck driver was killed and 33 train passengers were injured.

That accident and the one Thursday occurred along an 18-mile rail corridor that has the highest rate of all types of collisions involving Metrolink trains, records show. The Buena Vista crossing has the most collisions of automobiles and trains in the six-county commuter rail network.

Police and witnesses said that about 3:15 p.m. Thursday, as lights were warning that the crossing arms were lowering, an arm came down on the front of the Jeep Cherokee as the driver made a right turn onto Doran Street from San Fernando Road, which parallels the tracks. A person at the scene said there was another car behind the Jeep, so the woman couldn't back up.

As the northbound Amtrak train approached the crossing, its horn blaring, the woman got out and frantically waved her arms in a failed attempt to save her car, said Glendale Police Sgt. Jim Lowrey.

She had time to drive forward around the second crossing arm but didn't, he said. Crossing arms, like the one across her car, are designed to break, he said, and there is enough room between the two arms to allow vehicles to drive around and across the tracks.

"She came around the corner when the gate was going down.... She panicked and she tried to alert the train and saw that that wasn't working," Lowrey said. "To me and you, it may seem perfectly reasonable to just drive forward."

When it became apparent that her car was going to be struck, the unidentified woman ran and was about 15 feet from the crossing when her SUV was hit, Lowrey said. Debris was scattered along the tracks for about 30 feet from the point of impact.

The engine car of the San Luis Obispo-bound train was pushing five cars, and it was the baggage car that struck the woman's vehicle. The train was not badly damaged.

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