JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The driver of a Jacksonville Transportation Authority bus that was hit by an Amtrak Auto Train early Monday morning at a crossing on McDuff Avenue was the only person injured.
None of the nine passengers the bus nor any of the 466 passengers Amtrak said were on the train headed to Sanford were injured.
The JTA driver was transported to a hospital by Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department but was released by afternoon.
The bus came to rest against the train and with the railroad crossing arm leaning on its roof just after 6:40 a.m. The train stopped and the intersection was blocked for about 90 minutes.
A JTA spokesman David Cowton described what surveillance video of the crash showed.
“After the operator approached the tracks, the arm then comes down and the signal begins to flash. The approaching Amtrak train then clips the right front side of the bus," Cawton said.
The driver was placed on “hold off” status without pay while the JTA investigates to see if the driver violated any protocols.
“Safety continues to be out a top priority at the JTA. We are investigating this situation. We are working with JSO and other officials to find out what happened,” Cawton said.
People in nearby businesses heard the train horn moments before the collision.
"I got a wife and a daughter. There was somebody’s loved one on that bus," business owner Kelvin Frazier said. "That’s somebody’s job at stake right now."
This is the second time in two weeks that a JTA bus was caught underneath a crossing arm gate and the fourth incident involving a JTA bus in three weeks. In one case, a 50-year-old woman died when she got tangled while getting off a bus in Mayport and was run over.
The I-TEAM found the driver involved in the Mayport fatal crash was fired six months earlier for allegedly trying to run-over his supervisor's foot, but JTA rehired him after he filed a grievance through the union.
In addition to reviewing each individual incident at a railroad crossing, the JTA said it is also doing a complete review of all rail crossing on bus routes. Below is the full statement the authority released Monday afternoon:
The JTA is committed to providing safe and reliable public transportation for our customers, no matter where their journey takes them. We are grateful that no one was seriously injured Monday morning. As our internal investigation continues, the bus operator involved has been placed on “hold off” status without pay. Through that investigation, we will determine whether the operator followed protocols outlined in the Bus Operator’s Rule Book, and whether any disciplinary action is necessary.
“While JTA buses routinely make safe trips across railroad tracks, more than 1,200 times each weekday, we are undertaking a complete review of how JTA buses approach and cross these intersections. We also are reevaluating this particular crossing, which presents a unique set of circumstances, not only for the JTA, but for other large vehicles.”