One minute they were riding in their minivan near the tracks. The next, they were dead

Train tracks
Train tracks Pixabay

The Polk County Sheriff's Office is investigating a horrific collision between a train and minivan that happened near Frostproof early Friday.

Two young women died in the accident that occurred around 3:30 a.m..

The driver of the minivan, Emily Moncrief, 23, of Avon Park, was killed, as was her passenger, Lyndsay Serey, 23, of Sebring.

The Department of Transportation rerouted traffic on Highway 98 for about eight hours, according to ABC Action News in Tampa Bay.

"An unfortunate situation," said Brian Bruchey, spokesman for the sheriff's office. "We're collecting evidence on-scene and seeing if there are any witnesses and talking to those involved."

Bruchey said Moncrief was driving a 2012 black Dodge Caravan eastbound, and "failed to stop at the functional railroad crossing warning actuator. She went through the railroad arm bar and struck the 27th car of the train. It was well through the roadway when she struck it.”

Both women were wearing seat belts, he added.

Spectrum Bay News 9 spoke to a witness: "I heard a loud thump," said Kenny Smith, who lives near the tracks. "I mean, it wasn't something metallic, it was just a loud thump."

The impact of the crash derailed two empty rail cars on the train, which was headed north from Miami to Waycross, Georgia. No passengers were aboard and no crew member was injured, according to News Channel 8.

Driver impairment may have played a role, deputies say.

CSX released a statement about the incident: "Safety is our top priority as we work to restore the site and resume operations. CSX appreciates the swift response by Polk County emergency personnel and extends its thoughts to those impacted by this tragic event."