PLANT CITY, FL — Six people, including three children, are dead after a train crashed into their SUV in central Florida on Saturday evening while they were on their way to a birthday party. The collision happened in Plant City, which is about 25 miles east of Tampa in Hillsborough County.
Hillsborough County Sherif Chad Chronister explained during a news conference that seven people were inside a Cadillac Escalade when the crash happened, with five of the passengers being "violently ejected" from the vehicle upon impact, CBS News affiliate WTSP reported.
Video from the front of the freight train showed the driver approaching the crossing in an area of Highway 92 in Plant City that reportedly wasn't signalized. However, instead of yielding at the posted stop sign, the driver slowly crawled across the tracks, Chronister said.
"The conductor of the train did everything he could to try to slow this train down," he said. "He signaled these loud train horns that they're equipped with along with the flashing lights."
"We know that even from the witness that was parked by the tracks that he also was hitting the horn of his vehicle – all trying to get the driver's attention and get [them] to stop and look both ways," the sheriff continued.
Once the train collided with the SUV, the vehicle reportedly catapulted and flipped multiple times before landing a distance away from its origin.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office was first alerted of the crash around 6:48 p.m. from an iPhone that detected the collision, Chronister said. Once officers arrived, "they immediately went to work," he said.
Crews started working on prying the vehicle open, which Chronister compared to a crushed soft drink can, according to WTSP.
The driver and front passenger were rescued from within the car, according to Chronister, and were taken to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries.
It was later announced Sunday morning that the driver died from his injuries and was identified as 52-year-old Jose G. Hernandez. The other victims of the crash were also identified:
- Enedelia Hernandez, 50.
- Jakub A. Lopez, 17.
- Alyssa Hernandez, 17.
- Anaelia Hernandez, 22.
- Julian Hernandez, 9.
The five passengers, who were reportedly violently ejected from the SUV, were pronounced dead on the scene.
One passenger remains hospitalized in critical condition and was identified as 23-year-old Guillermo Gama.
"I want to take just a moment to ask this community to say an extra prayer tonight," Chronister said. "Say an extra prayer tonight for the first responders, for the deputies who had to go out here and as they were canvassing the area looking for survivors unfortunately only found more people who lost their lives from this tragedy."
"Also want to ask you to pray for this family ... Our hearts are shattered for the loss of this family and the tragedy that occurred here this evening," he added.
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