Three men were killed Friday when their pickup was struck by a northbound Amtrak passenger train near Avenue 9 in Madera County.
The impact of the crash pulverized the truck, splitting it into pieces that were spread hundreds of feet from the point of impact.
No information was available about who the men were, California Highway Patrol Sgt. Lloyd Pratt said. A Madera County coroner said the men’s names likely won’t be released until Monday.
The train’s conductor was injured in the crash when he saw the impending impact with the pickup and dove for the floor of the train, Pratt said. Emergency medical services officials confirmed the employee was evaluated and the injuries didn’t require a trip to the hospital.
The train was traveling at 79 mph, the maximum for passenger trains, when it struck the pickup at 12:30 p.m., Pratt said. The truck was on a dirt road next to the Madera Irrigation District canal at Road 33 1/2 when it attempted to cross the tracks, which are not marked by signals or crossing arms. The site is about 15 miles north of downtown Fresno.
Pratt said that because of how fast the train was traveling and how much weight it was carrying, braking would not have stopped the train in time to avoid the crash.
It was not immediately known why the men were on the dirt road, Pratt said.
The CHP, which is investigating the crash, initially reported that the pickup was stuck on the tracks, but Pratt said the reason it was on the tracks was not immediately known. There was a freight train stopped on the other set of tracks, and it’s possible that the pickup driver did not see the Amtrak train because of the freight train, Pratt said.
There were 217 passengers aboard San Joaquin Train 713, which was northbound from Bakersfield to Oakland, said Vernae Graham, a spokeswoman for Amtrak in Oakland.
Graham said the train was released at 3:45 p.m. Friday.