Florida Brightline passenger train line kills fifth person in a month

Posted January 4|Updated January 4

FORT LAUDERDALE — A Brightline high-speed train fatally struck a pedestrian who walked into its path Tuesday, the fifth fatality involving the railroad since it recently resumed operations after being shut down due to the pandemic.

Boynton Beach police said the pedestrian was struck around 7:50 a.m. Spokeswoman Stephanie Slater said no further details were immediately available.

The recent deaths have all occurred within the past month, continuing a trend that shows Brightline has the worst death rate among the nation’s roughly 800 railroads since trials began in mid-2017, according to analysis by the Associated Press data from the Federal Railroad Administration. .

None of the 52 prior deaths involving Brightline have been attributed to its equipment or crews. Investigations showed most of the victims were suicidal, intoxicated, mentally ill or had driven around barriers at an intersection in an attempt to beat the trains, which travel up to 79 mph through densely populated areas between Miami and West Palm Beach.

Brightline officials did not immediately return a call and email Tuesday seeking comment. After a recent accident, the private railroad released a statement saying, “Safety is a topic we won’t stop talking about and we ask the community, law enforcement, elected officials and members of media to use their platforms and help amplify a consistent safety message: stay out of the lanes and obey all warning signs.”

Brightline has installed infrared detectors that will alert engineers if anyone is hiding near the tracks so they can slow down or stop. The company has added more fencing and landscaping to make access to the tracks more difficult and is also installing red light cameras at level crossings that will allow police to ticket drivers who go around the guardrails. He is testing drones to monitor the tracks.

The first of the latest wave occurred on December 7, when a pedestrian was struck in North Miami Beach. Four days later, a pedestrian is hit in Hollywood. On December 30, a 68-year-old conductor and his 58-year-old sister died when he drove around warning barriers in the path of a Brightline train.

Brightline closed service from March 2020 until November, but one of its trains fatally struck a pedestrian in July during an engineering training exercise.

An ongoing AP analysis of federal data that began in 2019 shows that Brightline trains hit someone approximately every 33,000 miles traveled.

Excluding five smaller railroads that average less than 100,000 miles a year, where one or two fatalities skew their numbers, the railroad with Brightline’s second-worst rate is the SunRail of Central La Florida, which since mid-2017 has had at least 18 deaths or about one every 100,000 miles, according to federal records.

TriRail, a commuter service that operates in the same area as Brightline, averages about one death every 115,000 miles.

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Brightline plans to begin service between West Palm Beach and Orlando in about a year. On this new segment, trains will reach speeds of 200 km/h as they pass through less densely populated farmland. It is also developing a line that will connect Southern California and Las Vegas.

By TERRY SPENCER, Associated Press

Jose P. Rogers