A man and a woman are dead after a fatal collision with an Amtrak Cascades train near Kelso, Washington.
The Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office said the two people were killed after they drove their vehicle in front of the northbound passenger train around 9:30 a.m. Friday.
The incident occurred at a private railway crossing near Horseshoe Estates. Cowlitz County Sheriff Mark Nelson said another vehicle in front of the struck car had safely crossed the tracks. He said the driver of that first vehicle was the mother of one of the deceased and witnessed the collision.
Nelson said deputies are continuing to investigate the site with BNSF, Amtra, and the Cowlitz County coroner.
Eugene resident Calvin Hodge was riding in the third car of the Amtrak Cascades 500 train and witnessed the collision.
“All of a sudden there was a big jolt and we knew something was wrong,” said Hodge. “A few seconds later, I saw debris flying everywhere on both sides of the train.”
BNSF officials said the northbound train eventually resumed its trip to Seattle after Amtrak inspected damage from the crash. Normal rail traffic has resumed on the line, which handles 60 trains daily and services passengers from Portland to Seattle.
According to annual reports from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, this is not the first fatality at this crossing. On January 12, 2015, a driver died after failing to yield to an Amtrak train.
The train speed limit in that area is in the upper 60s. The private rail crossing also has no warning devices or crossing arms to alert drivers that a train is coming.
“Typically on private crossings there aren’t automatic warning gates, flashes or bells. Typically there’s a stop sign with a sign that says railroad crossing,” said Gus Melonas, a spokesman for BNSF railway.
Melonas said this is the fifth and sixth fatality in Washington this year involving a train and vehicle collision. There have also been 20 people who have died crossing tracks by foot.