Florida high-speed train deaths rise to 57 since 2017

Brightline trains have killed one person and seriously injured another in separate crashes less than 12 hours apart, the latest in a string of collisions to affect high-speed passenger trains since the railway first recently resumed operations.

Tuesday night’s death was the ninth involving Florida’s private passenger railroad since it resumed operations in November after an 18-month shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s the 57th since Brightline began trials in 2017, giving it the worst fatality rate per mile in the country, according to an ongoing Associated Press analysis that began in 2019.

Investigators found that none of the deaths were the railroad’s fault, determining that many were suicides or drivers or pedestrians trying to ram the trains. The trains travel up to 79 mph (127 km/h) through densely populated urban and suburban areas along approximately 70 miles (112 kilometers) of track between Miami and West Palm Beach that they share with the line of East Coast Florida freight.

Hallandale Beach police say a pedestrian was struck while trying to cross the tracks around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Brightline then released video taken from a camera inside the nose of a train that collided with a car at 6 a.m. Wednesday, leaving the driver hospitalized with serious injuries, according to the sheriff’s office. of Palm Beach County.

Video shows the crossing barriers were down and red lights were flashing as the driver turned away from a side street and appeared to deliberately drive around the gate and into the path of the train. The crash split the car in two, according to the railroad. The sheriff’s office said a northbound freight train had just passed the crossing on parallel tracks and the driver may not have seen the southbound Brightline train before it was too late.

Another driver was killed by a Brightline train on Sunday after it skirted a level crossing barrier.

A statement from Brightline said it released Wednesday’s video as “an example of the dangers of disobeying railroad crossings (and) to educate motorists and pedestrians in an effort to prevent future trespassing.”

AP analysis shows Brightline averages about one death for every 35,000 miles (56,000 kilometers) its trains travel, three times worse than the next midsize or major railroad. According to police reports reviewed by the AP, investigators determined most of those killed were suicides, conductors maneuvering around crossing barriers to try to beat trains, or pedestrians who were intoxicated or suffering from mental disorders.

Among railroads that have traveled at least 1 million miles in the past five years, Central Florida’s SunRail has the second-worst fatality rate, averaging one per 108,000 train miles (174,000 train kilometers ). More than 800 people die each year nationwide as a result of rail strikes, according to Federal Railroad Administration records.

In response to crashes, Brightline installed infrared detectors to warn engineers if someone was hiding near the tracks so they could slow down or stop. The company has also added more fencing and landscaping to make access to lanes more difficult, and is installing red-light cameras at railroad crossings to allow police to ticket drivers who go around guardrails. He is testing drones to monitor the tracks.

Brightline is about to complete an extension that will connect West Palm Beach and Orlando. He intends to eventually connect Orlando to Tampa. He is also building a line that will connect Southern California to Las Vegas.

Jose P. Rogers