NORTH SALT LAKE — A FrontRunner train stopped just feet from an SUV caught on the tracks Thursday morning. A potential tragedy was prevented by safety-focused coordination.
Congestion on I-15 where dozens of accidents were reported due to a rare freezing ice storm, had motorists seeking alternate routes into Salt Lake City Thursday morning. UTA spokesperson Gerry Carpenter said that the FrontRunner crossing on Center Street in North Salt Lake was in an especially congested area, and they had received reports of cars stopping on the tracks.
UTA sent a supervisor to watch the crossing and keep the tracks clear. At about 9:00 a.m., an SUV was caught on the tracks due to the congestion as a train approached. When the supervisor saw the crossing arms come down and the lights flash, he put an emergency call into the train, telling it to stop.
Carpenter said that trains in that area can travel up to 79 miles per hour and can take a mile to stop completely. Fortunately, the train came to a halt several feet away from the SUV, as shown in a photo submitted through ksl.com's iWitness app. The vehicle was soon moved from the crossing.
"The good news is that there were no injuries, but it was very close," Carpenter said.
He stressed the need for motorists to think about safety when near tracks. He said drivers need to stop before the crossing in congested conditions until it becomes clear to cross completely.
"The train can't stop quickly, it can't swerve to miss you, so if you place yourself in the path of travel, you are very much placing yourself in danger," Carpeter said. "We encourage people to always keep those tracks clear."
Carpenter also reminded motorists that it is illegal to cross tracks once the lights have started flashing, even if crossing arms have not come down yet. If you get caught on the tracks while a train approaches, either move your vehicle completely, or if it cannot be moved due to a blockage, abandon the vehicle, Carpenter said.
"We can replace property but we can't replace human life," he said.
The last FrontRunner accident involving a vehicle occurred in Nov. 2011. A mother and three children were injured while trying to go around the crossing arms.