FHP: 1 dead in Amtrak train, dump truck collision in Pine Castle
Updated On: Nov 29 2012 11:28:23 PM EST
A driver was killed Thursday morning when an Amtrak train carrying 140 passengers crashed into a dump truck in Orange County, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
The dump truck driver, Seeram Matadial, 44, of Orlando, was ejected and killed in the crash, which occurred around 11 a.m. at Glenrose Avenue and Orange Avenue in Pine Castle, south of Orlando.
According to the FHP, witnesses said Matadial did not stop at a stop sign and drove onto the tracks into the direct path of the train, which was traveling at 60 mph -- 10 mph below the speed limit. The dump truck was split in half and broke into several pieces in the crash, troopers said.
Family members of Matadial collapsed to the ground when troopers informed them about the fatal crash. Witnesses told Local 6 that Matadial's wife, who was too upset to speak on camera, told them she was on the phone with her husband when the crash occurred.
"But how is he going to know that a train is coming? There's no crossing arm," said Matadial's son, Jalicharan Sing.
The Florida Department of Transportation, which owns the tracks, said the intersection is slated to get crossing rails because of the SunRail project, which is under construction and set to launch next spring.
The Amtrak train, Silver Star No. 91 traveling from New York to Miami, was carrying 153 people, including the board and crew, did not derail, according to the FHP.
Troopers said 10 train passengers were taken to three area hospitals with minor injuries. The train conductor, David Story, 57, of Jacksonville, was not injured, Orange County fire Lt. Eddie Brown said.
The Amtrak train departed Penn Station in New York City at 11:02 a.m. Wednesday and was scheduled to arrive in Miami at 6:05 p.m. Thursday.
The uninjured passengers were taken to a nearby church as authorities investigated the crash and were later loaded onto a bus and taken to an Amtrak station. Passengers also had to try to get their luggage, which Amtrak said would be retrieved and delivered.
"It's our luggage that's the problem right now. We don't know what happened to it. They told us to leave with nothing, and I had a room and I don't even know where anything is right now," said Brenda Mayer.
Fire officials said the dump truck, which was carrying rocks, burst into flames during the crash, but the fire was quickly extinguished.
"I knew right away the driver never felt anything," said passenger Brian Lowery.
Video from Local 6 News helicopter Sky 6 showed wreckage of the scene, with parts of the dump truck scattered across a debris field about a quarter-mile wide.
Since 2002, including Thursday’s crash, four drivers and a passenger have been killed in four separate crashes with Amtrak trains at the same crossing, according to Federal Railroad Administration records.
"Every person that's been hit that I know of has died," said Steve Adams.
From his business Adams has watched countless close calls, and he's seen five deadly crashes in ten years.
"You hear the horn frantically going and it brings your attention," Adams said.
"This intersection is not traveled by many vehicles," FHP Sgt. Kim Montes said. "It's only used by vehicles going to the business behind the tracks. Drivers have a responsibility. If a train is coming, it has the right of way."
Two weeks ago, Adams put up his own stop sign to do his part and keep drivers alive.
"They should have a crossing gate. It would make it a safer place to cross. I wish they could have done it sooner, it would have saved this mans life," Adams said.
According to Amtrak, the Silver Star train connects New York City and Miami with stops at dozens of destinations in between.
More than 50 firefighters and 50 law enforcement personnel responded to the scene, officials said.
Passengers told Local 6 they were grateful no one else was seriously hurt.
"If it wasn't for the engineer, we'd all be dead," said passenger Shawn Roberts. "If that train derailed ... it would have been over."
Amtrak officials told Local 6 all trains should be operating on schedule by Friday morning.
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