Seeram Matadial was killed in Orlando, Florida on Thursday in a train crash that injured another 17 people, news reports indicate. The high-speed crash occurred when a passenger train collided with a pickup truck. Matadial, 44, was pronounced dead at the scene; he was driving the truck when it was hit. A total of 17 people aboard the train, including two crewmembers, sustained minor injuries in the crash; ten passengers had to be taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. The crash is still under investigation, though the Florida Highway Patrol says Matadial may be at fault. The possibility of insufficient signage at the intersection where the crash occurred has not been addressed.
Reports say the 10-car passenger train is owned by Amtrak and was carrying 140 passengers and 13 staff members when the accident occurred. The train was headed south through Florida, carrying passengers from New York to Miami, Florida. It is unclear whether the train sustained significant damage during the collision; it apparently continued on its way soon after the accident. Amtrak has so far not released a public statement regarding the crash.
According to reports, the accident occurred around 11:00 Thursday morning as the train moved along a stretch of tracks just south of Orlando. Matadial was behind the wheel of his truck, approaching a railroad crossing, when witnesses say he neglected to halt at a stop sign just before the tracks. Instead he allegedly moved on, driving directly into the path of the train. Reports say the passenger train was gliding along the tracks at 60 miles per hour, 10 miles less than the maximum speed limit. It collided with Matadial’s vehicle with such force that it split it in half, throwing Matadial nearly 100 feet from the scene. Reports say he died instantly.
Passengers aboard the train also felt the force of the collision. “Everybody was in shock at first; then panic started setting in,” one passenger said. “They were crying. They just couldn’t believe they saw the whole thing.” On man, who was in a wheelchair aboard the train, was thrown from his seat. It is not clear if he was among the injured.
The collision occurred near Orange Avenue and Glenrose Road, where the Florida Highway Patrol says there are no flashing lights warning of oncoming trains. Instead, signs are up warning of a railroad crossing. There is also a stop sign right before the tracks; however, witnesses near the scene claim Matadial neglected to stop and moved across the tracks and into the train’s path. “Not every train intersection is signalized,” a FHP said. “There is a stop sign that requires drivers to stop and look both ways before crossing.”
Investigators closed down a portion of Orange Avenue near the crossing for several hours as they gathered evidence and cleared the scene. Reports say some equipment on the tracks sustained damage in the crash, and will need to be repaired before trains can resume at safe speeds near there. One witness describe the decimated truck to reports, saying, “It looked like the truck was made of Legos … Everything was spread across the road.”