Home Accident Before Brightline Became Nation’s Deadliest Railroad, Its Owners Rejected Safety Fixes

Before Brightline Became Nation’s Deadliest Railroad, Its Owners Rejected Safety Fixes

Workers prepare to haul away the wreckage of a Maserati that was struck by a northbound Brightline train on Sept. 12 in Oakland Park. Police said driver Clivet Romero, 46, was killed on impact when he bypassed crossing gates to enter the railroad tracks. Photo: Dan Christensen

The owners of Brightline, the nation’s only privately funded and operated train, have been on notice for years that they weren’t doing enough to prevent fatalities on their tracks.

Now, in just its third year of operation, the death toll has reached at least 40, including two deaths that occurred during testing before the train became operational, according to the Alliance for Safe Trains, a South Florida watchdog group.

Two of the latest to die were Derek Chandras, 31, and, according to the Palm Beach Post, Jose Roibal, 55, who was hit and killed on Dec. 20 as he attempted to cross from west to east over the Florida East Coast Railway track at Nottingham Boulevard. A Brightline train struck Chandras about 3 p.m. on Jan. 1 when he walked onto the tracks in the 300 block of South Dixie Highway in Pompano Beach. City rescue personnel pronounced him dead at the scene, said Broward Sheriff’s spokeswoman Robyn Hankerson. She added that homicide detectives are investigating.

Brightline, soon to be known as Virgin Trains USA, has 178 rail crossings and 66.5 miles of track between Miami and West Palm Beach. It also has the highest per-mile death rate of the nation’s 821 railroads, according to the Associated Press. The majority of those killed were pedestrian trespassers attempting to cross the tracks. Some were committing suicide.

Ann Henson Feltgen, FloridaBulldog.org, Special to SouthFloridaReporter.com, Jan. 15, 2020