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Police video: Crossing arms not active when FrontRunner train hit semitrailer

By McKenzie Romero  |  Posted Jan 24th, 2017 @ 5:46pm


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NORTH SALT LAKE — Police video that captured a FrontRunner train slamming into a semitrailer Saturday shows that the railroad crossing arms were not lowered or flashing to warn drivers.

A North Salt Lake police officer was among the vehicles approaching the crossing at 1100 North about 10 a.m., and his dashboard camera recorded as the southbound FrontRunner train smashed into a FedEx semitrailer pulling two trailers.

The train crashed through the first of two trailers, missing the truck's cab. Two drivers in the vehicle narrowly escaped injury, and the 82 passengers on the train were unharmed, according to the Utah Transit Authority. Two individuals reported feeling whiplash in the crash.

The FedEx truck was one of several vehicles — including another semitrailer — in the area of the crossing at the time, the video shows. No other vehicles were involved in the crash.

Dave Goeres, UTA chief safety and security officer, called the crash "unprecedented." As of Tuesday, no mechanical or system issues have been identified, he said. UTA is conducting an investigation of all its systems and is interviewing employees to determine what caused the accident and whether human error occurred.

Initial indications are that the crossing arms were affected by snow and ice from Saturday's storm, Goeres said, causing them to drop into the safety default "lowered and active" position, where they remained for about 12 minutes prior to the crash.

A UTA employee was dispatched to the crossing and was at the scene when the crossing arms raised, Goeres said. The employee was still at the crossing when the crash occurred.

It is unknown why the gates remained up as the train approached, Goeres said. UTA is still investigating how long the crossing arms had been raised before the train arrived, and why they activated and lowered again moments after the crash.

"That's what we're looking into is why the gates went up prior to the accident and why the gates went back down afterward," Goeres said.

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In addition to looking for any system failures, Goeres said UTA is investigating whether human error contributed to the accident. He also said that it is possible for employees to be placed on administrative leave while a crash is investigated, but he would not confirm whether anyone had been placed on leave in this case.

The FrontRunner train was traveling below its speed limit because of weather conditions, Goeres said. As he approached the crossing, the operator was informed of the situation at the crossing, applied emergency brakes and sounded the train's horn but was unable to stop before hitting the truck.

"At these speeds and with that distance in between, the horn is a warning but would not have prevented anything," Goeres said.

A statement given to UTA by the truck's driver indicated he had looked for trains at the crossing, but because of snow and weather conditions did not see the train.

The crash is also being investigated by UTA police and North Salt Lake police. Federal safety oversight officials have also been notified and are overseeing the review.

Goeres emphasized UTA's relief that no one was injured in the accident and his assurance that safety is UTA's "top priority."

"We're very grateful no one was hurt in the incident, both in the truck nor on the train," Goeres said. "Something obviously went wrong at this crossing. We're investigating it, we're going to get the bottom of it, and we're going to assure the public and allow the public to have trust, faith and confidence in our system so that they will continue to ride with UTA."

FedEx spokeswoman Allie Addoms said Tuesday: "We are aware of the incident in Salt Lake City and are grateful that no one was seriously injured. We worked with authorities during their investigation to quickly clean up the scene and minimize the impact on customers."

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