POLK COUNTY, Fla. - Investigators are still working to confirm the identities of two people killed when a train hit their SUV in Polk County.
Their remains were badly burned.
The crash happened around 11:30pm Sunday night at a railroad crossing on Ewell Road near South Florida Avenue.
Investigators say for some reason the SUV ended up on the tracks and in the cross hairs of an oncoming train going about 35 miles per hour.
When the two collided, the SUV was thrown into the railroad control box and caught fire.
“That’s a lot of momentum, a lot of energy,” said Sgt. Steve Gaskins with the Florida Highway Patrol. “It takes a long time for them to stop. That’s why you’ll always see that trains have the right of way. They can’t stop.”
He said evidence shows that when the crash happened, the mechanical arms were down and the lights were flashing. That could be a sign that the driver ignored the signals.
Monday afternoon, a train passed through the crossing, but a worker got out and flagged traffic to stop because a control box was damaged in the crash.
“You can hear it going down, you can hear the noise, and the sound of it,” said Jean Clark, who lives nearby but slept through the crash. “To me, somebody was not paying attention.”
These types of crashes are not unusual in Florida.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, there were 52 incidents at rail crossings last year, resulting in 11 deaths.
That’s slightly higher than the seven deaths reported in 2011.
In recent years, Florida has ranked in the top 15 for states with the most train versus car accidents.
“It's something that drivers need to be aware of, take the caution that’s being given to you by the signals that are present,” Gaskins said.
The Florida Highway Patrol says most of the accidents are due to drivers trying to outrun a train, but all too often, the train wins.
The exact cause of Sunday’s crash remains under investigation.
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