6 dead, including 3 children, in Fla. SUV, freight train collision
The train’s engineer and a motorist flashed warnings and honked before the SUV into the train’s path
By Theresa Braine
New York Daily News
PLANT CITY, Fla. — Six people, including two teens and a 9-year-old, died over the weekend when a freight train plowed into their SUV as they crossed the tracks in Plant City, Fla.
One person survived the horrific crash, which sent the SUV catapulting end over end, ejecting victims as it went, police said. The accident occurred just before 7 p.m. Saturday, as Jose Guadalupe Hernandez drove his white 2020 Cadillac Escalade over the crossing, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday.
“For unknown and undetermined reasons, the driver slowly crossed the tracks directly in the train’s path,” the sheriff’s office said.
The crossing had no lights or bells indicating a train was bearing down, just a stop sign and a railroad-crossing sign, according to authorities. The train’s engineer and a nearby motorist flashed warnings and honked, and the engineer tried to stop the 55 mph train.
Hernandez, the 52-year-old driver, died overnight. His wife, 50-year-old Enedelia Hernandez, died at the scene, along with the couple’s children, Alyssa Hernandez, 17; Anaelia Hernandez, 22; and Julian Hernandez, 9. Also killed was Jakub Lopez, 17, a friend of one of the children. Guillermo Gama III, 23, was the only survivor, and he was in critical condition Sunday, the sheriff’s office said.
“The word devastating doesn’t even begin to describe the tragedy,” Chronister said in a statement. “Hillsborough County lost a family today, and our hearts are shattered.”
The group was en route to a quinceanera, a 15th-birthday party, at a home just across the tracks in the agricultural town about 25 miles east of Tampa.
The “carnage” left first responders “visibly shaken,” Chronister said at a news conference Saturday, describing the SUV as looking “like a soft drink can that’s been smashed,” reported CNN. “We are rattled at our core after witnessing what happened here tonight.”
The freight company, CSX, said its train was involved in the collision and that no crew had been injured.
“CSX extends its deepest sympathies to everyone impacted by this tragic incident,” the railroad company said in a statement, according to WFTS-TV. “CSX is working to support local law enforcement as they conduct the ongoing investigation.