SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The collision between a Sacramento commuter train and an SUV that killed three people over the weekend is the worst accident in the 25-year history of the capital city's light rail district, a system executive said Monday, adding that the SUV driver's impatience appeared to be the cause.
The accident killed a 62-year-old man, his 25-year-old daughter and the man's 22-month-old grandson. The man's wife remained in critical condition Monday.
"This is our worst grade-crossing accident we've experienced since we opened in 1987," said Mark Lonergan, chief operating officer for the Sacramento Regional Transit District, referring to the start of light rail service in the California's capital city.
He told The Associated Press late Monday that the system averages one to two accidents a year at its railroad crossings but fatalities are rare. Lonergan has been with the transit district 34 years.
Responding to an AP request for accident statistics, Lonergan said he was able to provide a five-year snapshot. Between January 2007 and Saturday's crash, there have been nine collisions between light rail trains and vehicles at what the transit district refers to as protected grade crossings.
Of those, only one other was a fatality, an April 2010 accident that killed one person.
The crossing involved in Saturday's accident is in a working-class neighborhood south of downtown. Investigators say video from cameras at the crossing and mounted on the light rail train show the Nissan Pathfinder driving around the downed crossing arms just before colliding with the southbound commuter train.
Fire officials said the impact pushed the SUV 30 yards down the track and flipped it. Lonergan said he has seen both videos and they show the crossing arms and warning lights worked properly.
"He clearly drove on the wrong side of the road around the gate in front of the train," he said. "He just simply got impatient and drove around it."