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Amtrak train kills 5 teens after it hits car at Michigan railroad crossing

Police at the scene where a train struck a car near Detroit, killing all five people in the sedan. Police said the crossing has a gate and flashing lights that apparently were working when the car approached. The train’s passengers were bused to another train. Police at the scene where a train struck a car near Detroit, killing all five people in the sedan. Police said the crossing has a gate and flashing lights that apparently were working when the car approached. The train’s passengers were bused to another train. (Carlos Osorio/Associated Press)
Associated Press / July 10, 2009
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CANTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. - An Amtrak passenger train carrying about 170 people struck a car that had skirted a gate at a road crossing near Detroit yesterday, killing all five people in the sedan, authorities said. The victims were believed to be teens.

The crossing has a gate and flashing lights that apparently were working when the car approached, said Sergeant Mark Gajeski, a police spokesman. Based on witness accounts, “it looks like they probably did go around the arm. They went around the gate,’’ he said.

The victims were believed to be four males, ages 17 and 18, and a 14-year-old female, Gajeski said. All five were from outside the western Wayne County community, but police weren’t releasing their names or hometowns or their relationship to the car’s owner.

The train typically travels about 67 miles per hour at the site of the crash, Gajeski said.

“All of a sudden, there was a thunk,’’ said Alice McCardell, 45, of Dearborn, who was taking the train to a library conference in Chicago. “You knew you hit something but you didn’t know what.’’

The sedan was broadsided and pushed down the tracks. It was crumpled underneath the front of the train and ended up right-side up, its roof and front crushed. Gajeski said the car was pushed about a mile.

The only reported medical problem among the approximately 170 people aboard the train was a case of a passenger with asthma, Gajeski said.

Last year, 119 people died nationwide in Amtrak accidents, usually when trains struck vehicles or pedestrians at railroad crossings, according to figures from the Federal Railroad Administration. Eleven people died in train accidents of all types in Michigan in 2008, according to Federal Railroad Administration data.

The National Transportation Safety Board hasn’t yet decided whether to investigate the crash, spokesman Keith Holloway said.