Local News

Two children killed in SUV, train collision

Posted December 9, 2009
Updated December 10, 2009

— Two children were killed and their mother injured when a train and SUV collided Wednesday evening near the intersection of Ellis Road and Angier Avenue, according to Durham Police Department spokeswoman Kammie Michael.

Brothers killed in train collision Brothers killed in train collision

The Amtrak passenger train was traveling west when it struck a Ford Explorer sitting on the train tracks at 5:19 p.m. The Explorer was on the tracks when the train's warning arms came down and was apparently blocked in by traffic, Michael said.

Two brothers in the Explorer – a 9-year-old and 6-year-old – were thrown from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene, Michael said.

“That is not the first time that this has happened here,” Durham resident Savannah Ford said of the collision.

Ford lives near the crossing and heard the train coming toward the SUV.

“I heard him (conductor) lying down on the whistle, and then heard what sounded like a transformer exploding. But knew it was an accident right away,” Ford said.

Ford said she will never forget what she heard as she ran toward the crossing.

“What was incredibility sad about it was that I heard the mother screaming because she was trying to save her children,” Ford said.

Surveillance video from nearby New York Mini Mart showed the train approaching the intersection before the crash.

Ahmed Naji, who works at the convenience store, said there are often close calls at the crossing.

“People are going by the street and the train has the road closed, so they have no choice but to stop in the middle of the road,” Naji said.

Paramedics transported the boys' mother, who was driving the SUV, to Duke University Hospital for treatment. She suffered non-life-threatening injuries, Michael said.

The names of the victims were not released.

The 129 people on the Amtrak train were not injured.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the train was bound for Charlotte. Due to the collision, the crew was released from duty and a replacement engineer and conductor took over the route, Magliari said.

Some streets in the area of Angier Avenue and Ellis Road were blocked for several hours after the collision.

Woman killed in Durham train, car crash in 2001

One woman died and another was seriously injured after the car they were in was hit by a train at the intersection of Ellis Road in Durham in November 2001.

Janet Teasley Watson of Durham and Barbara Ann Dickerson of Creedmoor were in a 1991 Ford Thunderbird, which officials said was on the train tracks, when they were hit by an Amtrak train.

The collision happened near Pettigrew Street. The passenger train was coming from New York City and had a stop in Durham.

Police said that the car, driven by Teasley, was traveling north on Ellis Road when it came up behind several vehicles stopped at the railroad crossing gates, which were down. According to a witness, Teasley went around the stopped vehicles and into the oncoming travel lanes.

The Thunderbird then drove around the railroad crossing gates and onto the railroad tracks, where a westbound Amtrak train struck it, according the police.

The impact caused the Thunderbird to become airborne and smash into a railroad control building before coming to rest parallel to Pettigrew Street.

Dickerson, a passenger in the car, died in the accident. Watson was in serious condition at Duke Medical Center after undergoing emergency surgery. None of the 122 passengers on board were hurt.


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  • lorivalentine1 Dec 10, 2009

    Blah Blah Blah.. There are many speculations and ifs, ands or buts here.. Unfortunately it all comes down to one thing.. Mom made a mistake and her kids paid the ultimate price.
    Hopefully others will learn from this but not likely as it has happened in the past and continues to happen. Until people smarten up it will still happen.

  • mpheels Dec 10, 2009

    With all the talk here about syncing traffic lights with train signals, please remember that even with synced lights it is not safe to stop on the tracks. Even if the traffic light turns green, if a car breaks down, driver isn't paying attention, or any number of reasons then you're stuck on the tracks.

    I also want to point out that while it's easy to say the other drivers should have moved, or the mother and children should have gotten out and run, this all happened very quickly. Very few people can think that quickly and clearly under duress. That's why an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

    Don't pull onto tracks until there is room to pull off. Don't pull into intersections if you can't make it all the way through. Don't enter the crosswalk if there isn't time to finish crossing with the signal. In any situation where the right of way changes, make sure you can SAFELY finish a maneuver before it changes, otherwise stay put and wait your turn.

  • AllOpinionsCount Dec 10, 2009

    Light timing doesn't have anything to do with most of these sad, sad stories. Plain and simple. You DO NOT stop on the tracks in traffic. You have no idea how long you will be there nor when a train will be coming by. I see mother's with their children in the back seat stopped on the tracks every week. The traffic lines are there so you do not stop under the train arms. Pay attention, read the signs and you will be okay. If you don't, then well......Sad, sad, sad and avoidable.

  • discowhale Dec 10, 2009

    An awful story to be sure. But things like this are why NC is THE number one state for train vs private vehicle wrecks. People must not think here, or something.

    And the train always wins.

  • HSMOM Dec 10, 2009

    BIGUNCFAN - Once again people jump on the conclusion band-wagon before they know all the facts. NO CHARGES have been filed yet and I will not grab a torch & join the crowd. There have been times when I have miscalculated distance or someone in front of me despite having room to move up stops suddenly & refuses to budge for unknown reasons. Yes, you are right we do have a right to say what we want and to our opinion, but that doesn't mean we always should. We are all born with a filter of sorts & born with compassion/kindness & to rightously throw out "would of, could of should of" during this time is premature and cold. This woman's life is irrevocably broken and I choose not to add to this tragedy or misery by throwing out negative. It doesn't matter if the family reads this or not, people who are reading this are deeply affected by this story & seeing these uncaring comments is disheartening. I will pray for this mother & the family, whether she made a mistake or not.

  • mentalgoose Dec 10, 2009

    jreesnc - your point about light-timing is excellent. Hopefully the DOT is reading...

  • mentalgoose Dec 10, 2009

    Some have commented (I guess as a way of minimizing the blame on the driver) that "traffic was heavy", the "intersection [has] a horrible design", and "how horrible are the people blocking her in..." But really, the blame rests squarely on the driver, because she's the one who stopped on the tracks. Doubtless, she is aware of this terrible fact. Hopefully some day she will be able to forgive herself.

  • kittiboo Dec 10, 2009

    uncw that's a good point about the kids not being buckled- I doubt kids that age would be in carseats- a booster with regular seat belt at best. Mom probably yelled for them to unbuckle and get out, there just wasn't enough time. I really don't think it would have mattered much if they had been buckled.

  • uncw05 Dec 10, 2009

    to those who say that the kids couldn't have been buckled in, I'm guessing that's because they were trying to get out, they had to have seen the train at least enough ahead of time to unbuckle and think about running from the car.

  • jreesnc Dec 10, 2009

    As many others have said, this tragedy happened because the driver stopped on the tracks. The drivers manual clearly covers this situation and a red box and highlighted text clearly state you should never cross the tracks unless you are sure traffic ahead will allow you to clear the crossing.

    Having said that, if the stop signs on Ellis Rd. were replaced with a traffic light, the light could be programmed with the gates to stop Angier traffic and offer a green light to Ellis Rd. traffic for a period of time after the gates have been signaled. This would eliminate the chance of a person getting caught like this. After a set time, the traffic on Angier would be giving the green again and it would remain green as long as trains are on the tracks. I have noticed the traffic lights at Buchanan and Main st. in Durham operate in this fashion.