Broward County

A 94-year-old driver is hit by a train. How did he survive in this car?

This is all that is left of a 94-year-old man’s four-door sedan after it was struck in the rear by a Brightline train after the car stopped on the railway tracks at 8:55 a.m. Aug. 28, 2018. The driver walked away uninjured.
This is all that is left of a 94-year-old man’s four-door sedan after it was struck in the rear by a Brightline train after the car stopped on the railway tracks at 8:55 a.m. Aug. 28, 2018. The driver walked away uninjured. Pompano Beach Fire Rescue

Robert Raymond Aronsson faced a predicament so many of us can relate to: that stomach-churning feeling of being stuck in traffic on the railroad tracks.

And hearing the blast of a train’s warning horn. And knowing you can’t move up or back. And that impact with something much bigger than you — a fast-moving Brightline train — is imminent.

But unlike many, Aronsson, a 94-year-old man from Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, walked away from the fearsome crash.

“He was unbelievably lucky to be alive,” said Pompano Beach Fire Rescue spokeswoman Sandra King.

The senior citizen was heading westbound on Copans Road at rush hour Tuesday morning, King said. “He got backed up in traffic at the light and heard the train’s horn blowing and saw the arms come down and he said he tried to weave through traffic to get past the traffic and he couldn’t do so.”

The Brightline train struck the driver’s side rear portion of his white four-door sedan, a 2007 Buick LaSalle, according to the Broward Sheriff’s Office’s report, “and yet he was able to walk away uninjured,” King said.

The Florida East Coast Railway track was shut down for about an hour after the 8:54 a.m. crash to allow Pompano Beach Fire Rescue and Broward Sheriff’s Office responders to move the car off the tracks, King said.

Florida law prohibits stopping a vehicle on railroad tracks and crossings, a point shared by Brightline spokeswoman Ali Soule.

“Brightline continues educating the public that stopping on railroad tracks is illegal and dangerous,” Soule said.

Brightline, which debuted in South Florida in early January, has been involved in several accidents, including seven fatalities, since trial runs began in 2017. No Brightline trains have been cited at fault and four of the fatalities, including one in June, were blamed on suicides.

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