57ºF

Amtrak train tears car in 2 as driver ignores crossing arms

Driver tried to run pass downed crossing arms

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Three people are recovering Tuesday night after they survived a harrowing accident as their car was torn in half by an Amtrak train when the driver of the car tried to beat the train across the tracks.

Video surveillance from a nearby bar captured the accident that the driver, his cousin and his cousin's pregnant girlfriend narrowly survived. 

Stacey Peterson Jr., 21, was driving north on Willow Branch Avenue, just off Roosevelt Avenue about 10:30 a.m., when the train came through the crossing, hitting and spinning the car, and ripping off the back seat and trunk. Alexandria Mincey, 26, who family members said is six weeks pregnant, was in the back seat and was thrown from the car. The third person in the car, Mincey's boyfriend, 35-year-old Edward Peterson, was also hurt.

All three were taken to UF Health. Jacksonville Fire Rescue originally said their injuries were not life-threatening, and the hospital reported Mincey was in fair condition. There were no injuries to anyone aboard the train.

Dr. Kai Cafferly said he witnessed the crash and ran over to help.

"I heard the Amtrak train whistle. I heard it a couple of times, and suddenly I heard a car revving up their engine. It sounded like they were going to race," Cafferly said. "My first thought was, 'Human beings, oh my God!"

Family members of the trio in the car said with the way the car looked, they couldn't believe the three made it out OK. They're also concerned because they said crossing arms were not down when the train came through the crossing. The surveillance video appears to show the arms up at the time.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said that Peterson admitted during an interview that the railroad arms were down and that he drove around the downed railroad arms causing the accident. 

"What I saw on the video is quite sad, to see people involved in an accident like that one," Evans Mbewe said. "I do feel for the family. I pray for the people involved in the accident for a quick recovery, and I hope things will go well with them."

Mbewe noticed the train stopped from an overpass nearby and decided to see what was going on. He said he always stops at train crossings, because he's had a close call with a train before.

"It could have hit me, but it was just stopped near the cross line and maybe that's the reason the bars didn't go down, I don't know," Mbewe said. "Fortunately I'm still alive. It didn't happen to me."

Crews from Amtrak and CSX were both on the scene investigating. The track where the collision happened is owned by CSX. 

In a statement, a CSX spokeswoman said, "The operation functionality of the crossing arms and the speed of the train are part of the ongoing investigation."

The Amtrak Silver Meteor remained stopped in the area while the crash was investigated, but it was pulled back so that the intersection was open to traffic. The train began moving again about 2:45 p.m.


About the Authors: