With the crossing alarm clanging distantly down the tracks, emergency personnel peered into the crumbled wreckage of a four-door sedan that moments before was struck by a passing freight train in downtown Turlock, killing the 80-year-old woman behind the wheel.
The woman was identified by the Stanislaus County Coroner’s Office as Alta Scott. There were no other passengers in the vehicle, said Turlock Police spokesperson Officer Mayra Lewis.
The collision happened around 8:35 a.m. Wednesday at the intersection of Olive Avenue and Golden State Boulevard.
Four hours later, the stalled train was still blocking multiple intersections through town. Intersections were open at Fulkerth and Golf Link roads.
Scott was driving eastbound on Olive, when for an unknown reason she crossed over the tracks, right into the path of an oncoming Union Pacific freight train.
“She went around the rails,” said Dondra Drumond, who was one of the first people to call 911 following the collision. “She was trying to beat the train.
“There was all this dust and then you could clearly see the car. I just felt so helpless,” Drumond said.
The crossing arms and alarm all were working properly at the time, said Union Pacific spokesman Aaron Hunt.
Hunt also confirmed witnesses saw Scott drive around the crossing arms.
None of the train’s crew were injured in the collision, though they have been taken off duty and put into a peer support group, Hunt said.
“It takes a train like this a mile to come to a stop, so a situation like this one puts our engineers into a very helpless position,” Hunt said.