Broward County

Brightline: The man injured by our train lay on the tracks in an ‘intentional act’

Brightline debuted its intercity railway connecting Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach on Jan, 12, 2018. The train waits at the Palm Beach Brightline station as passengers board for a special VIP and media tour before the official public rides begin. A Brightline train hit a pedestrian Thursday evening, Feb. 8, 2018, in Wilton Manors, the sixth crash involving the South Florida passenger rail line since it began testing its trains last year.
Brightline debuted its intercity railway connecting Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach on Jan, 12, 2018. The train waits at the Palm Beach Brightline station as passengers board for a special VIP and media tour before the official public rides begin. A Brightline train hit a pedestrian Thursday evening, Feb. 8, 2018, in Wilton Manors, the sixth crash involving the South Florida passenger rail line since it began testing its trains last year. emichot@miamiherald.com

The man injured by a Brightline train in Wilton Manors on Thursday had attempted to kill himself when he walked along a stretch of tracks and lay on the metal awaiting an approaching train, police said.

The 48-year-old Broward County resident, whom police have not identified, endured non-fatal injuries when he was struck by the passenger line around 8 p.m. in the 1200 block of Northeast 24th Street. He was taken to Broward Health Medical Center to receive medical treatment and mental health assistance, according to a statement releaed by Wilton Manors Police.

The man had entered the Florida East Coast Railway corridor through a grade crossing on Northeast 24th Street. He then walked south for a “short distance” while keeping parallel to the train tracks, police said. Meanwhile, the FEC safety gates lowered and warning lights activated.

Before the train approached, the man lay in its path and was struck, police said.

“Based on witness reports, this was an intentional act by an individual who laid on the tracks before the train approached,” said a Brightline spokesman. “We appreciate the work of our team and first responders who acted quickly to remove him safely.”

Thursday marked the sixth crash involving the South Florida passenger rail line since it began testing its trains last year.

The private rail line, which debuted in South Florida in early January, has now been involved in four fatalities and two non-fatal accidents since it began testing the train in 2017. In the previous incidents, a pedestrian or bicyclist has either attempted to cross the train tracks when a train was approaching or stood on the tracks, police said. The most recent case came on Jan. 19, when a man was injured crossing the tracks in Fort Lauderdale.

In each case, Brightline said its safety measures were not to blame. The trains can reach speeds of 79 mph.

In the coming months, Brightline will expand service from its current Fort Lauderdale-to-West Palm Beach route to include Miami-Dade County.

County Mayor Carlos Gimenez last month requested that the Florida Department of Transportation conduct a safety review of the county’s portion of the Florida East Coast Railway, on which Brightline will soon travel. Currently, much slower freight trains operate on the tracks. James Wolfe, the department’s District Six secretary, responded to Gimenez’s request on Friday, saying that Brightline and FEC safety engineers have already reviewed all 31 grade crossings in Dade County.

“Whenever two modes of transportation share the same section of roadway, as they do at highway-rail grade crossings, the possiblility for a collision exists,” Wolfe wrote. “Engineering technologies and education play a critical role in helping minimize and reduce those collision risks."

Florida’s two U.S. senators, Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson, have called for a federal safety review of Brightline’s operation, and the company has responded by formally inviting the politicians to tour their facility themselves.

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