Visalia mother struck, killed by train, injures daughter


6-year-old Valerie Felix attends Manuel Hernandez Elementary School in Visalia. She is expected to survive the injuries she sustained in the accident.

School officials are preparing to tell Valerie's classmates about the accident and the terrible news that she lost her mother.

Family members tell Action News that 31-year-old Debbie Felix had just left the house to drive her 6-year-old daughter to school in Visalia, when her car was struck by a train.

CHP Officer Tony Beltran said, "So it appears at this time the Honda did not see the train in time and was unable to stop as it entered in the crossing."

Officer Tony Beltran says the train was traveling at 20-miles per hour. The impact dragged the Felixes' car 300 feet. Little Valerie's mom, Debbie, was killed. Valerie was airlifted to a hospital in Fresno with moderate injuries.

Manuel Hernandez Elementary School Principal Cheri Laverne says Valerie is a happy first grader. Laverne was sad to hear of the accident and says she is now preparing for psychologists and teachers to help students deal with the news during this last week of school.

Laverne said, "We just want to make sure they get the correct information and that rumors aren't flying around and want to make sure if they have questions or concerns that we're there to answer those for them and support them through their emotions."

Debbie and Valerie's house is just a few blocks from the accident scene. There are no crossing arms -- only a sign warning drivers they're about to cross the tracks. But the California Highway Patrol says a lack of warning signs were not a factor in this crash.

"So far in our investigation we are able to identify that uh neither one of them was restrained," said Officer Tony Beltran. "Again another safety precaution, just wear your seatbelt."

Valerie's dad and several other family members have been by the little girl's side in Fresno as she recovers from her injuries. They told Action News Debbie was a loving, happy mother and wife.

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