South Florida

Police identify 31-year-old woman struck and killed by Brightline train

Boynton Beach police identified Melissa Lavell, 31, as the woman who was fatally struck by a Brightline train Jan. 12, 2018, the night before its official public launch. This is Lavell’s Facebook cover image.
Boynton Beach police identified Melissa Lavell, 31, as the woman who was fatally struck by a Brightline train Jan. 12, 2018, the night before its official public launch. This is Lavell’s Facebook cover image. Facebook

Boynton Beach Police identified Melissa Lavell as the woman who was fatally struck by a Brightline train Friday night.

Witnesses told police it appeared that the 31-year-old Boynton Beach woman was crossing the tracks in Boynton Beach after the guard rails were down and was on the tracks as the train approached.

The Brightline train was carrying invited guests on a preview ride from downtown Fort Lauderdale to downtown West Palm Beach to show off its high speed services a day before its Saturday introduction to the public. Brightline had spent much of the day giving rides to VIPs, government officials and the media to tout its 33-minute rides between the destinations. No one on the train, which was traveling north and hit Lavell near Northeast Sixth Avenue around 6:25 p.m., was hurt.

Michael Hicks, a spokesman for Brightline, released a statement Friday night: “This is a tragic incident, and our thoughts and prayers are with those affected,” the statement said. “We continue to stress safety and the adherence to the rules and laws in place around active railroads.”

Lavell is the third woman to be killed by a Brightline train before the rail system officially opened to the public Saturday, according to the Sun Sentinel.

A woman, whose death was investigated as a suicide, was hit in July 2017 in Boca Raton. In November, another woman was killed on the tracks in Deerfield Beach.

Brightline car
Brightline debuted its intercity railway connecting Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach on Friday, Jan, 12, 2018, with a VIP and media tour before the official public rides began Saturday. Emily Michot emichot@miamiherald.com

Miami’s Metrorail system had similar incidents before its May 20, 1984, opening. On April 29, 1984, a train operator’s error was blamed for a crash near the Vizcaya station that demolished two rail cars and damaged four other rail cars.

Mark O’Connell, a 28-year-old Hollywood man fell 40 feet to his death from the Metrorail tracks at the Civic Center station in March 1984. Miami police said O’Connell, who worked for a Metrorail contractor, was off duty and taking pictures at the site.

And Ismael Bahamon, a 31-year-old engineering student who came to Miami from Colombia, tried to cross an unfinished section of a Metrorail track while it was under construction on Dec. 8, 1982. He fell 30 feet but survived with back injuries.

Brightline, a privately funded train line, began regular service Saturday with initial fares at $10 to $15 a ride. The diesel-electric train system, which features leather seats, power outlets and free Wi-Fi, provides service between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

Another leg linking Miami to Fort Lauderdale is next, but a date hasn’t been announced. A third leg, linking West Palm Beach to Orlando, is due to begin construction later this year.

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen

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