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Jul 15, 2023

PCSO investigating crash between Amtrak train and car-hauler in Lakeland

Media Contact: Brian Bruchey, PIO

A total of eight people were treated for minor injuries Friday, July 15, 2023, following a crash in Lakeland between an Amtrak train and a semi-tractor pulling a car-hauler.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office, Lakeland Police Department, and Lakeland Fire Department were dispatched to the scene at about 7:04 pm.

Seven of the injured were taken to a local hospital by ambulance, and one person went by private transport. Their injuries were only minor.

The train was carrying 163 passengers and ten crewmembers.

"It is truly a miracle that nobody was seriously hurt in this crash. A collision between a passenger train and a semi-truck could have been much worse. Our sympathies are with those who were injured. I don't think I could say enough about the incredible response and total team effort by all of the agencies involved." -Grady Judd, Sheriff

From the evidence and witness statements, PCSO crash detectives found that the truck was driving north on Canal Avenue North, just south of US 92 (Memorial Boulevard), hauling seven vehicles on a trailer. As it crossed over the tracks, the trailer became stuck on the tracks.

The Amtrak train, which had recently left the Lakeland Amtrak station on a Miami to New York trip, was traveling east on the tracks which runs parallel with US 92.

As the train was approaching Canal Avenue North at about 78 mph, the engineer, Ronald Webb of Jacksonville, saw the truck and began blowing the train's horn.

The crossing arms and lights activated, and began to impact the truck's trailer and the truck driver, Walberto Carrazana Bermudez of Homestead, and his passenger, Jose Luis Lahera Vidal of Hialeah, both jumped out of the truck.

Upon impact, the train (consisting of two engines and eight cars) continued traveling east for another 200 yards before coming to a stop.

The front portion of the lead engine derailed, and a small amount of diesel fuel leaked.

Amtrak arranged transport of the passengers and crewmembers to be taken to Tampa via bus.

Mr. Bermudez was issued a citation for insufficient clearance at a railroad crossing.

Initial estimates provided by officials indicate damages to the train, tracks, CSX property, cost of cleanup, and losses due to track downtime is estimated to be between 6 and 10 million dollars.

US 92 and Canal Avenue North were closed for approximately ten hours.

Officials from CSX, Amtrak, and the National Transportation Safety Board
(NTSB) also responded to the scene.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office is conducting the crash investigation, and it remains ongoing.