Still a mystery why driver didn't obey light rail crossing in San Jose fatal crash

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- It is still a mystery why a driver crossed light rail tracks in San Jose on Sunday when the crossing arms were down. Two men, the driver of the car and a passenger, were both killed.

Four lanes of traffic cross the VTA tracks on Lincoln Avenue. When the crossing arms descend, they completely block vehicles from proceeding.

RELATED: Deadly crash prompts delays on VTA in San Jose

However, it appears the driver of a gold Buick Regal decided not to stop and wait for the light rail train to pass.

Surveillance video taken by a camera at Hapa's Brewery, which sits adjacent to tracks, shows the car going around the crossing arms and getting struck by the northbound train, causing the train to derail while pushing the car down the track.

Investigators from San Jose police say there's no question what happened.

"The crossing arms were down and the driver went around it. And that's when the train collided with the car," said San Jose Police Sgt. Enrique Garcia.

Witnesses were shocked by what they saw. "We all went out to the car and the dude was barely breathing," said Ryan Stern. "People were telling him to stay with him but it's pretty hard to survive a wreck like that."

Jose Zarate was one of about 20 passengers on the train.

"It felt like a tin can was like just crunching it," recalled Zarate. "You see the walls coming down on you. You don't know what to expect. I didn't know if it was a bomb. I didn't know what it was. I didn't know it was car, until after."

In the surveillance video, the car seems to be going straight on the wrong side of the street, but before zig-zagging to get across the tracks, the train hit the car.

It is not easy to get around the crossing arms at this location. Concrete dividers separate the two sides of Lincoln Avenue approaching the crossing. There's a second concrete barrier between the tracks.

Police say there's no excuse for ignoring crossing arms.

"Even if they look in both directions, they don't know how fast the train could be coming," said Sgt. Garcia. "Maybe there's a blind spot, maybe there's a curb. There's a lot of factors. It would be prudent for people to wait."

The Santa Clara County Coroner's Office said the driver and passengers killed in the accident have not been identified. VTA says the speed limit along this section of track is 55 MPH but trains typically average about 7.5 MPH between stations.

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