An Amtrak train slammed into a tow truck on the tracks in Cardiff Saturday. NBC 7's Chris Chan speaks to witnesses, including Thomas Neely, who heard the horrific fatal crash.
An Amtrak train collided with a tow truck in Cardiff Saturday afternoon killing the driver of the tow truck, officials confirmed.
The crash happened around 2:35 p.m. at Chesterfield Drive and South Coast Highway 101.
According to Encinitas deputies, the driver of the tow truck had stopped on the railroad tracks to assist a disabled SUV that was stalled just west of the tracks.
A short time later, an Amtrak train approached. The tow truck was unable to move in time and was struck by the train.
The driver of the tow truck sustained fatal injuries and died at the scene, deputies said.
The crash is under investigation
At 3:35 p.m., North County Transit took to their Twitter page to also confirm the collision, tweeting: "Due to an incident on the tracks involving Amtrak, COASTER may experience a delay."
One local witness said he saw the SUV on the flatbed tow truck, both stalled on the tracks. The witness said the train crossing arm dropped on the SUV and a moment later, the train slammed into the tow truck.
The witness caught the entire crash on tape. The video shows the truck driver’s door closing and then the truck turning away from the train just moments before the collision.
A witness who works across the street from the train tracks said the sound of the fatal crash was horrific.
“It's somewhere between an explosion and thunder. You know, when metal hits metal it makes a noise unto itself,” explained witness Thomas Neely.
The white SUV was left in place at the intersection.
Moments after the crash, people nearby tried to help and scrambled to find survivors.
One witness said the driver was ejected from his tow truck and thrown some 100 yards from the crash site. On the witness video, people seemed to cover the body of the victim while waiting for emergency crews to arrive.
“Anybody else back there?” a person searching for survivors at the crash site says on the video.
Another resident who lives near the site of the crash told NBC 7 that the impact from the collision shook his whole house.
It’s unclear how fast the train was traveling at impact, but the southbound Amtrak train came to a stop about half a mile away from the Chesterfield Drive crossing.
Pieces of the tow truck were strewn around the train tracks for hundreds of yards after the crash, including the flatbed, a wheel and even the massive engine block that landed about 200 yards away.
Numerous workers from the company TOWEX later arrived at the scene. The towing company responds to AAA calls.
The company told NBC 7 it wants to respect the privacy of the victim’s family, so his name was not released. One source confirmed the man had a wife and young daughter.
The Medical Examiner’s office will identify the victim at a later time.
Most people nearby were saddened to hear that a man lost his life in the crash on the train tracks, including Neely.
“I'm sorry to hear that a mother lost her son, especially during the holidays. There's never a good time but it's just, it's tragic,” said Neely.
The two women who drove the SUV were not injured.
Deputies at the scene Saturday evening were preparing to question the train’s engineer. Train services resumed later in the afternoon.