A California Highway Patrol officer said Juan Jose Hernandez was taken to a local hospital in critical condition after being thrown 70 ft. from his pickup truck when it collided with a train.
The BNSF train was back on track after an unexpected delay in Le Grand Tuesday morning ended in tragedy. "The wreck looks terrible," said Rosendo Ceja. Ceja rushed over to the scene when he heard his friend had been involved in an accident.
The driver of the black pickup truck – Juan Jose Hernandez, 28, was turning on a private rail road crossing. "It turned right onto a private crossing and just as it slowed, it met the train. As the train met the crossing, the vehicle never stopped or attempted to stop," said CHP officer Chris Rodenburg.
The freight train was traveling northbound at 60 mph when it collided with the pickup. The impact from the 5,000 ton train ejected Hernandez out of his truck. Investigators said he was not wearing his seat belt and was thrown about 70 ft. "It would have still been quite an impact but I think he received his injuries from the ejection because he was forced out of the cab of the vehicle, which broke the doors open. That's probably where he sustained his injuries as the vehicle was rotating after the impact," said Rodenburg.
Hernandez was taken to Mercy Hospital in Merced with major head injuries following the collision.
"He's a good guy. He's been here for a long time. He comes around once in a while and visits," said Ramon Leyva, Hernandez's close friend. Hernandez was trying to get to his friend's ranch where he helped train horses once a week. "I just hope from now on its eye-opening and [drivers] stop. There's a stop sign there for a reason. You guys have to stop and look both ways," said Leyva.
Investigators don't think the driver was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident. They believe Hernandez was not paying attention when crossing the tracks, a mistake that cost him his life.