Florida passenger train kills man weeks after reopening
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A train belonging to Florida’s High Speed Passenger Rail Service struck and killed a man walking on the tracks just weeks after the business reopened after the pandemic.
The Brightline train hit the pedestrian Tuesday morning in North Miami Beach when the man did not move as the train honked, officials said. North Miami Beach police did not immediately return a call Wednesday for further details.
The death is at least the 49th involving a Brightline train since the Miami to West Palm Beach line launched in mid-2017 and the first since it reopened last month after a 19-month closure due to the pandemic. A Brightline train during a test run in July fatally struck a cyclist.
An Associated Press review of federal records shows Brightline has more fatalities per mile than any US railroad, one every 31,000 miles (50,000 kilometers). Since 2018, an average of about 1,200 people are fatally struck by trains each year in the United States.
None of the deaths involving Brightline have been attributed to its equipment or crews. Investigations showed most of the victims were suicidal, drunk, mentally ill or had driven around barriers at an intersection in an attempt to beat the trains, which travel up to 79 mph (128 km/h) in densely populated areas.
Brightline said in a statement Wednesday that “safety is a topic we won’t stop talking about and we ask the community, law enforcement, elected officials and members of the media to use their platforms and help amplify a consistent safety message: stay clear 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.
Excluding five smaller railroads that average less than 100,000 miles (160,000 kilometers) per year, where one or two fatalities skew their numbers, the railroad with Brightline’s second-worst rate is the SunRail of Central Florida, which since mid-2017 has had at least 15 fatalities 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.
Brightline is completing a line that will connect South Florida to Orlando, which is expected to be completed in about a year. He is also working on a line that would connect Southern California to Las Vegas.