Three killed after van and train collide in Kalamazoo Co.

Posted at 5:21 PM, Nov 18, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-18 23:29:17-05

OSHTEMO TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Three people were killed Tuesday after a van and a train collided in Oshtemo Township.

According to the Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Department, 11th Street was shut down at KL Avenue after the fatal crash.

The crash happened at approximately 4:30 p.m., sheriff's department officials said.  Michigan State Police and the Oshtemo Fire Department were on scene investigating for nearly four hours.

The victims, including the driver, are believed to be in their late teens or early twenties, according to police. Investigators were able to ID the victims and contact families, but had not publicly released their names as of Tuesday evening.

Danielle Schuring, who was three cars back from the railroad crossing when the crash happened, watched as the van approached the tracks, but never stopped.

"It was just breathtaking, it shocked me," Schuring said.

"It went around the barrier and when (the driver) went around I happened to see the train and I said 'man I don't think he's going to make it' and then next thing I know I hear a big loud pop."

Schuring described seeing a tire fly through the air, hitting overhead power lines and starting a fire.

"I just can't fathom what the families are going through," she said.

The impact dragged the van nearly a mile down the track before stopping. The van was nearly unrecognizable following the crash.

Travelling at speeds in excess of 80-110 mph, investigators said there was no way the train's operator could've reacted quickly enough to stop the train to avoid the accident.

"We just don't know a reason, it appears there were other vehicles stopped and this van went around those gates and on the tracks the time the train crossed," said F/Lt. Dale Hinz, with Michigan State Police.

Hinz said in his 20 years on the job, this was the worst train and car accident he had ever seen.

"Obviously, especially with the Amtrack trains, they travel very quickly and their closing speed is very rapid," he said. "On road conditions like this it makes it difficult to get around which is obviously a terrible, terrible decision to make."

A representative for Amtrak said no one on board the train was injured in the accident. The train continued on its route toward Detroit and Pontiac at around 8:30 Tuesday evening.

The crash did knock out power to about 2,200 Consumers Energy customers. Power had since been restored as of Tuesday night, according to the company's outage map.