OAKLEY, Contra Costa County (CBS SF) — A freight train hit a vehicle on the tracks in Oakley Wednesday, killing a 12-year-old boy and critically injuring a woman.
The collision happened at about 12:53 p.m. at a railroad crossing at E. Cypress Road just east of Main St.
A 19-year-old woman was airlifted to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek with critical injuries while three other people were taken by ambulance to area hospitals, according to Fire Marshal Steve Aubert with the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District.
On Wednesday afternoon, Oakley Union Elementary School District Superintendent Jeff Palmquist said in a letter to parents that the victim was a student at Delta Vista Middle School, a block away from the railroad crossing.
A witness said it appeared a grey Lexus SUV tried to beat the train after the railroad crossing arms were coming down and was struck in the rear portion of the vehicle. At least one other vehicle was hit in the collision.
Raw Video: Scene of Fatal Train Crash In Oakley
The shaken witness said she was in a truck one vehicle away from the crash directly in front of her.
“As the car went through the gates went down and its ass end was still sitting in the train tracks. The train went through and then all of a sudden I just heard a big crunch and I looked over and the car flew off the road and then the tires were going and there was debris hitting my truck – and I called 9-1-1,” said the unidentified witness. “It was sickening. Just scary.”
Another witness said he also saw the crash from inside his own vehicle.
“I saw a big cloud of dust and then I saw the train come to a grinding halt, and then everybody got out and started – it was obviously some attention being paid,” said witness Edward Harris. “So I get up and got out of my car and I looked and I saw the SUV sitting there. Everything had just happened so we all got out and I called 9-1-1.”
Harris said he thought about his own children after learning of the young victim involved in the crash.
It’s heartbreaking. I’ve got children who go to school right over here at Delta Vista [Middle School],” he said. “I heard that there was a younger person that was reportedly involved and my heart just goes out to the family and I’m just praying for them. ”
LaQuan Ashford, who has a child at Delta Vista told KPIX 5, “I go stand at that track and wait for my daughter to cross because of that reason. There’s always a train crossing during their school time.”
Ashford said train traffic is such a problem that he has reached out to have the city set some limits on trains coming through the area, especially during pick up and drop off hours.
“There is a long line all the way across. So everyone is sitting bumper to bumper waiting to get to this light,” Ashford said. “So the train, coming at that time, anyone can get stuck on the track. Anyone, at any given time.”
Oakley city officials said they have implemented road striping changes and adjusted the timing of the traffic signals to ease congestion.
The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District treated three other victims and released them at the scene.
It was the third train crash in East Contra Costa County this year and the second in one week. On Aug. 20, an Amtrak passenger train collided with a big rig in Brentwood resulting in a minor injury. In May, a truck parked on the tracks was hit by a train in Orwood, resulting in an injury to the driver.
“If the crossing arms are down, don’t ever try to beat a train. They’re down for a reason,” said ECCFPD Battalion Chief Ross Macumber. “The train comes through at a high rate of speed and they don’t stop for a long time. So never try to beat a train, never drive around the crossing arm, and if it’s an uncontrolled train intersection, always turn off your radio, roll down your window and listen and look before you cross.”