3 Brightline train crashes in 4 days in Palm Beach County

Published: Feb. 16, 2022 at 7:06 AM EST
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A Brightline train early Wednesday morning collided with a vehicle for the third time in four days in Palm Beach County.

The wreck happened just before 6:30 a.m. in the area of Latona Avenue and Railroad Avenue, just south of Washington Avenue near Dixie Highway in Lake Worth Beach.

Palm Beach County Fire Rescue said the impact of the crash split a car in half, and a person inside the vehicle — identified as Luis Paez, 55, of Miami — was rushed to St. Mary's Medical Center with "incapacitating injuries."

Surveillance video released by Brightline shows the train approaching the intersection, where the railroad gates are down and warning lights are flashing.

In the video, Paez, driving a 1999 Honda Civic, can be seeing going around a stopped car and through the gates before being struck by the Brightline train.


Surveillance video of Brightline crash

In an official crash report, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office said Paez "impatiently, and illegally, drove around the stopped traffic ahead and around the safety gates."

"What makes these events so tragic is that they're preventable," said Ben Porritt, the senior vice president for Brightline corporate affairs, at a news conference Wednesday morning.

Porritt said the driver involved in Wednesday's crash made a "dangerous choice" to drive around the lowered gates and "put their life at risk."

"The gates were already down because there was a freight train in the area and a Brightline train in the area. They look a left, went around a car, went around a gate, and that's when the incident occurred," Porritt said.

Brightline train crashes into car in Lake Worth Beach

Wednesday morning's accident is the latest in a series of crashes involving Brightline trains.

A Brightline train collided with a car Tuesday morning in Delray Beach, where a woman and baby escaped just before the crash.

Delray Beach police spokesman Ted White said the 28-year-old mother tried to cross the tracks at a dead-end street. White said the mother then took her 3-month-old daughter and began knocking on doors of nearby homes, telling residents that someone was after her.

Police said the woman, whose identity hasn't been released, was involuntarily hospitalized under Florida's Baker Act law.

Another Brightline crash happened less than 20 miles away on Sunday in Lake Worth Beach. One person was killed in that crash.

Porritt on Wednesday stressed that none of these recent incidents have been the fault of Brightline. Instead, he believes there needs to be a better focus on education and proper behavior around railroad tracks.

"Obey all signs and warnings. Obey the crossing arms if they're down. Obey the lights," Porritt said. "Recognize that this is an active railroad track. Trains can come in both directions. And you have to always be on alert that a train can be in the area."

In the crash report, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office described Paez's actions as "illegal."

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