Mother, 2 Kids Killed Crossing Tracks

No One Aboard Jacksonville-Bound Amtrak Train Injured

Published On: Oct 14 2011 02:31:44 PM EDT   Updated On: Jun 14 2010 10:50:39 AM EDT
LAKE COMO, Fla. -

An Amtrak train struck a car crossing unguarded tracks in southern Putnam County Monday afternoon, killing a woman and two children in the car, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Amtrak officials said the northbound Silver Meteor struck a car at the private, Highlands Avenue crossing in Lake Como, south of Palatka, 3:45 p.m. Monday.

"It was one of the older style (crossings). It didn't have any flashing lights or arms, just a railroad crossing sign and a stop sign," FHP Lt. Bill Leeper said.

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Melissa Johnson, 34, along with 9-year-old Brandon and 6-year-old Blake were pronounced dead at the scene. Troopers said the family was leaving a house on the private road after visiting relatives.

An Amtrak spokesman said the train did not derail and none of the 259 passengers and crew on board was hurt.

Troopers said the train was going as fast as 70 mph when it struck the car, scattering pieces of the car across a wide area. FHP said the train was apparently going 70 mph -- the speed limit on that stretch of tracks.

"It was a very violent collision," Leeper said. "It was quite a distance before the train was able to stop."

Neighbors said the boys had their last day of school on Friday and have just started their summer vacation. Pennie Henry, who knows the family, said she felt really bad.

"My granddaughter plays with her son, it's a horrible thing. My heart goes out to that family," said Pennie Henry.

The train left Miami Monday morning and was due in Jacksonville by late afternoon. It arrived in Jacksonville around 10:30 p.m. The leading car stayed at the scene after sustaining some damage.

The incident is under investigation.