At least six people were confirmed dead including three children after a devastating crash between a freight train and an SUV took place as the vehicle was crossing the rail tracks in Hillsborough County at Plant City, Florida, according to local media.
During the fatal crash, another was injured and was reported to be in critical condition. Four males and three females were inside the SUV, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said.
Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a news briefing Saturday night: "The SUV, we can see from the video begins to catapult and flip violently several times before it landed a distance from this crossing."
Officials at the scene noted that the crash happened at about 6:45pm after a Cadillac Escalade was struck at US-92 and Jim Lefler Circle by a train travelling at 55 mph.
Local media reported that the family was heading to a quinceañera at the time of the incident.
Sheriff Chad Chronister said: "As you can imagine, the carnage that’s created when these two collide. The SUV, we can see from the video begins to catapult and flip violently several times before it’s landed."
As the collision took place, the victims were violently ejected.
According to the details, the dead victims were identified as driver Jose G Hernandez, 52; Enedelia Hernandez, 51; Jakub A. Lopez, 17; Alyssa Hernandez, 17; Anaelia Hernandez, 22; and Julian Hernandez, 9.
Officials noted that the survivor victim was at the front, 23-year-old Guillermo E. Gama III. The sheriff’s office said he is in critical condition at Lakeland Regional Health.
Chronister said the scene was horrific to see, describing the family’s SUV as a “soft drink can that was smashed.”
"I think anyone who has seen the carnage that’s been created, whenever you compound that with children lost their lives here, maybe an entire family, maybe an entire family lost their life here tonight," Chronister said Saturday adding that "we're all visibly shaken."
"No one on the train suffered injuries in the crash,” authorities noted.
The crossing was not marked with crossing arms however, only a stop sign was visible. Rail safety expert Michael Callanan said the road was not meant for public traffic.
"This road is a privately maintained road, an access road to a home," Callanan said while adding that "there’s two homes back there I believe."
"It’s not a public thoroughfare road; it’s just a road to get to the house. Therefore it’s not required to have those warning devices there because it’s privately owned."