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Driver dies when SUV is struck by Rail Runner train

Albuquerque Fire Rescue responds to a crash in which a Rail Runner train hit a car on the tracks at Candelaria on Wednesday. The vehicle that was struck is under a tree, on the left. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Authorities say one person was killed when a Rail Runner Express train struck a sport utility vehicle that failed to stop for a crossing arm in Albuquerque late Wednesday afternoon.

The southbound No. 515 train was crossing Candelaria just east of Second Street about 5:45 p.m. when it appeared to strike the eastbound small gray SUV with such force that it crumpled and came to rest under a tree several yards away from the tracks and intersection.

“The vehicle went under the arm and was struck,” Daren DeAguero, a spokesman for the Albuquerque Police Department, said in an email Wednesday night.

“The driver of the vehicle succumbed to their injuries on scene,” he said.

Authorities said that as far as they knew, no one else was in the vehicle. They did not release any other information about the driver.

The train was carrying 91 passengers, and no one on the train was injured in the crash, authorities said.

Augusta Meyers, a spokeswoman for the Rio Metro Regional Transit District, which operates the commuter train, said that while Fire Rescue and Albuquerque police were investigating no one was allowed off the train and it was held at the scene for more than two hours.

She said the crash delayed all other Rail Runner travel, and both northbound and southbound trains unloaded their passengers at nearby stations, where they were shuttled by bus around the site of the crash.

Meyers said the driver must have driven under the crossing arm as it was lowering but before it was all the way down.

She said there was no apparent damage to the crossing arms and that by reviewing footage from cameras on the train and other information, authorities will have a better idea of what happened.

“Much like a plane has a black box, we have information on the train, like when the engineer hit the brakes,” she said.

The train was likely traveling about 50 mph before it struck the vehicle, Meyers said, which is why it came to a stop a couple hundred yards south of the intersection, and why the car was thrown away from the tracks and severely damaged.

Meyers said that as far as she knew, all the passengers on the train, which was providing service from Santa Fe to Belen, were calm.

Candelaria remained closed between Second and Commercial, just west of Edith, for close to three hours, and the train was allowed to continue its regular route after police and firefighters cleared the scene.

It was not clear whether there was any damage to the train, but the general manager of the operations systems company was on site to address any issues.

Authorities did not expect the crash to affect train service today, when trains will run on a Sunday schedule because of the July Fourth holiday.