One woman is dead after a northbound Baby Bullet Caltrain struck a red Toyota Camry square in the passenger side just before 5 p.m. Thursday, pushing the mangled vehicle more than half a mile before it came to rest.
According to Palo Alto fire Chief Nick Marinaro, an unidentified adult woman was killed in the accident after she drove across the Caltrain tracks at East Meadow Drive.
“The car was a twisted mess,” he said.
Witnesses say the woman was traveling east on Meadow Drive and came to a stop on the tracks before being struck. The train was en route to the Palo Alto train station at the time and was traveling at speeds up to 79 mph.
The safety arms, lowered to block cars from crossing the tracks when trains are coming, in addition to bells and lights meant to warn motorists, all worked properly, police said. Officials could not say how the woman’s car came to be on the tracks despite the safety precautions, or why she might have stopped there.
Ittook emergency crews almost two hours to pull the crushed vehicle from the front of the train where it was caught, both to allow the train to resume operations and to extract the woman’s body.
Marinaro said emergency crews found a child’s car seat in or near the vehicle after the accident, but they were still trying to determine whether the seat had been occupied.
According to Caltrain spokesman Jonah Weinberg, passengers from the train disembarked at approximately 6:30 p.m. and were placed on one of the southbound trains slowly moving through the area.
Palo Alto police Officer Max Nielepko said Palo Alto police will be assisting Caltrain’s investigation into the accident.
“It sounded like the train was trying to stop. It was loud but we couldn’t see anything,” said Francesca Palma of Menlo Park, who was walking nearby at the time of the accident. A line of trees and underbrush blocked her view.
The crash comes almost a month after Caltrain handed out more than 110 citations to drivers for dodging rail crossing arms or disobeying track-safety laws. Caltrain has set aside approximately $7.2 million to improve rail safety in the next three years.
Seventeen people died on Caltrain tracks last year, and at least three have been killed to date in 2007.
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