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3 train collisions with vehicles in 4 days in the same county has authorities pushing for more driver education

Surveillance video of a Brightline train crash in Lake Worth Beach on Feb. 16, 2022.jpg
Posted at 7:37 PM, Feb 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-16 20:37:19-05

LAKE WORTH BEACH, Fla. — A local train in South Florida's Palm Beach County collided with a vehicle early on Wednesday morning making it the third such accident in four days for the Florida area, visited often by tourists from around the U.S.

The wreck happened just before 6:30 a.m. local time in the county's Lake Worth Beach area. Surveillance video released by the train company, known as Brightline, shows the train approaching the intersection where the railroad gates are down and warning lights are flashing.

In the video, the driver of a 1999 Honda Civic, can be seen going around a stopped car and through the gates before being struck by the train.

Palm Beach County Fire Rescue said the impact of the crash split a car in half, and a person inside the vehicle identified as 55-year-old Luis Paez of Miami, was rushed to a local hospital with "incapacitating injuries," according to authorities.

In the crash report, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office described Paez's actions as "illegal."

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Surveillance video of Brightline crash

A report from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office said the driver "impatiently, and illegally, drove around the stopped traffic ahead and around the safety gates."

"What makes these events so tragic is that they're preventable," said Ben Porritt, the senior vice president for Brightline corporate affairs, at a news conference Wednesday morning.

Porritt said the driver involved in Wednesday's crash made a "dangerous choice" to drive around the lowered gates and "put their life at risk."

"The gates were already down because there was a freight train in the area and a Brightline train in the area. They look left, went around a car, went around a gate, and that's when the incident occurred," Porritt said.

Brightline train crashes into car in Lake Worth Beach

A train also collided with a car on Tuesday morning in Delray Beach, Florida. In that incident, a mother and her baby were able to escape just before the crash.

Delray Beach police spokesman Ted White said the 28-year-old mother tried to then drive across the train tracks at a dead-end street. White said the mother then took her 3-month-old daughter and began knocking on the doors of nearby homes, reportedly telling residents that someone was after her.

Police said the woman, whose identity hasn't been released, was involuntarily hospitalized under Florida's Baker Act law.

Another similar train crash happened less than 20 miles away on Sunday in Lake Worth Beach, Florida where one person was killed in that crash.

On Wednesday Porritt stressed that none of these recent incidents have been determined to be the fault of Brightline, the company which operates the Florida trains.

He says he believes there needs to be a better focus on education and proper behavior around railroad tracks in the state.

"Obey all signs and warnings. Obey the crossing arms if they're down. Obey the lights," Porritt said. "Recognize that this is an active railroad track. Trains can come in both directions. And you have to always be on alert that a train can be in the area."

This story was originally published by Matt Papaycik and Victoria Lewis of WPTV in West Palm Beach, Florida.