Trains hit vehicles stuck on same track
Posted October 24, 2009
Updated October 26, 2009
Fayetteville, N.C. — Two vehicles got stuck on railroad tracks in a road construction zone in Fayetteville and were struck by Amtrak passenger trains within four hours overnight. One collision injured a mother and her two children.
In both collisions, police said, motorists drove around construction barricades and tried to cross the tracks, but their vehicles became stuck on the uneven crossing. Asphalt around the crossings has been torn up for a repaving project.
Location of train vs. vehicle collisions
The first collision happened at the crossing at Moore and Orange streets, about a half-mile north of the Fayetteville train station, around 9:30 p.m.
Police said the driver of a blue Chevrolet Suburban, Tonya Owens, 37, of Blanchette Street in Hope Mills, was going east on Moore Street went around the barricades and got stuck on the tracks.
"She got stuck there, couldn't come forward, couldn't come back," described Tory Hall, who witnessed the collision.
Four of the people riding in the car - ages 9 to 18 years old - got out and tried to push the SUV off the tracks, while a 15-year-old stayed inside, police said. When a train approached, 15-year-old, later identified as Jelisa Merrick, couldn't get out. Blanchette tried to open the door and free her daughter, but the train struck before they could get away.
"The little girl that was in the middle in the back couldn't get out. By the time she was to the door coming out of the vehicle, the train hit the vehicle," Hall said.
Police said the train hit the SUV going between 25 and 30 mph and pushed it about 360 feet.
Merrick suffered minor injuries, while the Blanchette had broken ribs, police said. They and another child were taken to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center.
Early Saturday, hospital officials said the mother was listed in fair condition, one child was in serious condition, and another child had been treated and released.
Blanchette was cited for driving into a construction work area.
There were no injuries reported among the 437 passengers on the train, which was bound for Florida.
The train sustained about $100,000 worth of damage but was able to continue on the trip. It was delayed while crews cleared the scene. The SUV was totaled.
Witnesses told police that signal lights were flashing and large neon lights were on the barricades when the collision occurred.
In the second collision, an Amtrak train struck an unoccupied vehicle on the tracks at 121 Whitfield St. around 1:20 a.m., police said. The collision occurred on the same tracks about a mile north of the first collision.
None of the 195 train passengers were injured. The vehicle was mangled, while the train sustained between $15,000 and $20,000 worth of damage.
Police said they believe the driver left for help after getting stuck on the tracks. Officers were searching for driver.
On Monday, officials said the vehicle was registered to Devlin Lamont Washington, 37, of Fayetteville. It was unclear whether he was the occupant of the vehicle at the time it was struck by the train.