A Brightline train struck a man in Wilton Manors on Thursday evening. This was the sixth accident involving the private passenger rail line since it started testing its trains in South Florida last year.
The unidentified man was transported to Broward General Hospital with non-fatal injuries.
According to Wilton Manors police, the crash occurred before 8 p.m. in the 1200 block of NE 24th Street. Fire rescue officials told the press that the man was in the path of the oncoming train but managed to lay between the tracks, allowing the train to roll over him without killing him. It is unclear if the safety gates were lowered when the accident occurred.
Brightline, which began operations in South Florida last month, has now been involved in four deaths and two non-fatal accidents since it started testing its trains in the region last year. In the previous incidents, a pedestrian or cyclist either stood on the tracks or attempted to cross when a train was approaching, investigators said.
A bicyclist crossing the tracks was killed by a train in Boynton Beach on January 17, while a pedestrian who crossed a gate while a train was approaching was killed a week earlier. Another pedestrian was struck and injured by a train a few weeks later.
It is unclear why there have been so many incidents in the region, but Brightline said its safety measures were not to blame. In each case, the safety gates were lowered, lights flashed, and a whistle sounded.
Some have speculated that ignorance of the private passenger line’s presence on the tracks may have led people to believe they were racing freight trains rather than faster passenger trains. Brightline has put out several statements urging pedestrians and cyclists not to cross when a train is approaching.
The Coral Gables-based company plans to expand operations to include Miami-Dade County. County Mayor Carlos Gimenez has requested that the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) conduct a safety review of the portion of the railway on which Brightline wants to travel.
In his letter to FDOT, Gimenez noted Brightline’s “unfortunate incidents” and requested a state safety review to look into “any deficiencies that may be attributed to these incidents.” Gimenez asked the state to establish a plan of action in order to improve safety for the public.
Both of Florida’s senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, have also written letters to Federal Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao requesting a review of the passenger line’s safety protocols.
“It is critical that the Department of Transportation assess the safety measures with Brightline, while coordinating with local officials and members of the community to prevent future tragedies from occuring,” Rubio wrote in his letter. “In response to these recent and tragic events, how does the Department intend to ensure that the Florida Department of Transportation, its local partners and Florida East Coast Railway safeguard pedestrians at Brightline rail crossings?”
Brightline is reportedly working on a new PSA campaign and is collaborating with the county government, the transportation authority, the school district, emergency responders, and stakeholders at all cities on its route.