Six people heading to a birthday party were killed after a freight train struck their car at an unguarded crossing in central Florida over the weekend, according to authorities.
The wreck killed five members of a family and their friend just before 7pm local time on Saturday. One person was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries.
At the time of the crash, 52-year-old Jose Hernandez was driving when the Cadillac Escalade moved into the path of a train traveling at a speed of 55mph (88 km/h). The crossing lacked gates or a warning bell and was only equipped with a stop sign as well as a railroad crossing sign, according to the Hillsborough county sheriff’s office.
Officials said the train’s engineer and a nearby car both sounded their horns and the engineer tried to stop, but it was too late. The train hit the Escalade, and the SUV flipped several times, authorities said.
Five passengers who died at the scene were ejected from the Escalade. They were identified as Enedelia Hernandez, 50; Anaelia Hernandez, 22; Jakub A Lopez and Alyssa Hernandez, both 17; and Julian Hernandez, nine.
Jose Hernandez died later.
The passenger who survived and was hospitalized was identified as Guillermo E Gama III, 23.
Sheriff Chad Chronister told reporters that the Escalade looked like “a soft-drink can that [had] been crushed”. He said it was unclear why the SUV moved into the path of the train moving through Plant City, an agricultural town about 25 miles (40km) east of Tampa.
The family was headed to a traditional 15th birthday party known as a quinceañera at a home on the other side of the tracks when the deadly crash occurred.
Chronister told reporters that the crossing in question does not have gates or warning lights because the road it is on is lightly traveled. Many collisions involving trains and cars generally occur at crossings without those safety features.
The Associated Press contributed reporting