AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Police say video shows that the driver of a minivan timed his crash into an A Line train early Tuesday morning. The driver was killed and some passengers on the train were injured.
The A Line was closed after the crash and was expected to remain closed into the evening commute.
The crash happened at approximately 3:40 a.m. at the railroad crossing at Smith Road and Chambers Road in Aurora. A total of 56 passengers were on board the train at the time.
TRAIN-TO-THE-PLANE: Timeline Of RTD’s A Line
The train dragged the passenger van approximately a quarter of a mile after the collision. Police say the vehicle entered the gate crossing before the train was coming, stopped inside the crossing then waited for the train to arrive and moved onto the tracks.
One person aboard the train was taken to the hospital with what was described as minor injuries. Three other people were treated for minor injuries at the scene of the crash and didn’t require hospitalization.
A Line travelers were taking buses from RTD’s Peoria Station to the airport while the train service was shut down there for the investigation. Travelers coming from Denver International Airport were also taking buses to Peoria Station, where they were then allowed onto the trains for the rest of the ride to Union Station.
Aurora police are now investigating the incident along with the Federal Railroad Administration.
“This is the first time our department has investigated an accident involving a commuter rail line,” said Aurora police spokesman Sgt. Chris Amsler.
Watch Amsler’s complete comments about the crash just before 7 a.m. in the following video clip:
Amsler said an Aurora police officer was working off duty at the train crossing where the collision happened along with a flagger. (Flaggers have been working at all of the intersections along the A Line route since the debut of the service last spring.) He said that officer tried to prevent the collision.
“Our officer was on the south side of the intersection and the civilian flagger was on the north side of the intersection,” Amsler said. “The train was heading eastbound on the track at 3:40 a.m. this morning when a passenger van entered the intersection — at this point we’re not for sure whether or not if the gates were closed when he entered the intersection — but at that point the gates did begin to close and the van was inside of the intersection.
“The train then struck the van and pushed the van probably about a quarter of a mile down the track.”
The officer who had tried unsuccessfully to prevent the crash was showered with debris and had to run to get out of the way, Amsler said.
“At this point in time we do believe that the gates were operating properly at the time of the accident but again that will be one thing we will be looking into and confirming,” Amsler said.
Smith Road was closed from Chambers Road to Airport Boulevard for the investigation. Chambers was also closed in both directions at Smith Road.
The name of the person driving the van who was killed, a man, hasn’t been released.
Flaggers have been stationed at the gates along the A Line crossings since it opened in April 2016 because of issues with software that controls the gates.
Earlier this month the Federal Railroad Administration extended the deadline for RTD to continue to operate the A Line until April 30 which requires the flaggers to be at the crossings.
Part of FRA’s investigation will be looking at the crossing to make sure it was functioning properly at the time of the accident. It’s too early in the investigation to say how this will impact the waiver given to RTD.
The FRA released a statement about the collision: “At approximately 3:30 a.m. MST a Denver Regional Transportation District Commuter (RTDC) A-Line train struck a motor vehicle at the highway-rail grade crossing on Chambers Road and East Smith Road in Aurora, CO. According to emergency responders, the driver of the vehicle was pronounced dead at the scene. FRA has investigators at the scene and will be conducting a thorough investigation.”