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VTA Train Kills Two More People

A Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) light rail train travelling northeast towards downtown San Jose killed two people when it smashed into a car travelling north on Lincoln Avenue today at 12:33 pm. The Mercury News reported that witnesses said that “the car ran through the train tracks while the barrier was down and collided with the light rail.”

photo by Jonathan Valdez

The VTA train, moving at over 50 miles per hour, instantly crushed the car and its two occupants, and pushed the wreckage about 120 feet northeast down the tracks from Lincoln Avenue. The impact caused both cars of the two-car electric train to completely derail from the tracks but remain upright.

photo by Jonathan Valdez, who reported that officials were removing two dead bodies at 5:40 pm

A video from a surveillance camera at Hapa’s Brewing Company shows the VTA train and crushed car grind to a sudden halt in front of an outdoor patio filled with customers. None of the twenty passengers on board the train reported injuries, nor did anyone else in the brewery or on the street at the time.

“I was there at Hapa’s when this happened,” commented resident Sarah Simpson on a thread in the Facebook group Willow Glen Neighbors. “I thought a bomb went off.”

photo by Jonathan Valdez

While in this case VTA can easily blame a scofflaw motorist for the crash and resulting deaths because “the barrier was down”, the agency has a long and shameful track record on light rail safety, killing people regularly in collisions and then taking no action to prevent future deaths. One of the most shocking deaths was that of 14-year-old Danika Tyler Garcia, mowed down by a VTA train in January 2014, just one mile southwest of today’s crash, at Stokes Street next to Del Mar High School where Garcia was a student. VTA blamed Garcia for her own death, saying she didn’t heed the approaching train’s horn, and then refused to install pedestrian gates at the rail crossing on the south side of Stokes Street.

photo by Randy Vazquez

The light rail deaths continue. A VTA train struck and killed a bicyclist in July 2017 and two pedestrians in December 2017. VTA continues to pour billions of dollars into expanding highways for more car traffic rather than investing in simple and low-cost safety improvements for its light rail system. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is Chair of the VTA Board of Directors, which determines the agency’s priorities and expenditures.

  • based on available info, I’d suggest that a reckless driver killed 2 people, not VTA. Shameful, reckless headline.

  • Affen_Theater

    Yes, exhibiting gross negligence and/or inattention, the car was (illegally) driven straight through the lowered crossing gate at full speed directly into the path of the oncoming VTA LRV. Since there is a lowered reflective red and white crossing arm in the driver’s path along with red flashing lights all over the arms and crossbucks, this is even worse than blowing through an intersection on a red light at full speed.

  • Deanna Garcia

    I’m Danika’s mom.

    They never even said sorry.

    We lost the lawsuit. VTA said there were enough warnings in place.

    She wasn’t stupid. She wasn’t careless. She wasn’t wearing earbuds. She watched one train pass in one direction. Didn’t see the other one coming. Didn’t hear it over the noise of the first one.

    My 14 year old daughter was killed from massive blunt force trauma.

    And the VTA said it was her own fault.

    HER fault.

    There are no pedestrian barriers at that crossing. STILL. 15-20 feet from Del Mar High School.

    Those kids are still in danger.

    • S L

      So very, very sorry! Heartbreaking, can’t imagine what you’ve been though, still go through and will continue to deal with every day.

  • Deanna Garcia

    Oh, and there was no heeding any horn. The conductor never even rang the gawdamn bell, let alone sounded any horn.

    • Johnny Ray Garcia

      Because we dont wanna wake anyone let’s just blow through a intersection at 50 mph in front of a school at the time they arrive for school sounds super safe…

      • S L

        Each train weighs 44 tons, so one to two trains is an incredible use of force that can maim and kill at far lower speeds.

        My guess is this was about economics and that VTA did not want to spend the money to make it safe for pedestrians and cyclists.

        Instead focus ALL of the liability on the pedestrians and cyclists.