Woman dies in downtown Amtrak collision

Published 5:00 am Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Brookhaven woman died Wednesday afternoon at King’s DaughtersMedical Center after her car was struck by a passenger train.

Fannie Black, 68, collapsed and died in the emergency room atKDMC around 3:45 p.m., Lincoln County Coroner Clay McMorrisconfirmed. Black’s death occurred more than two hours after theaccident, after which emergency responders and witnesses said shewas responsive and seemingly OK.

McMorris said Black’s body would be sent to the state crime labfor an autopsy to determine her exact cause of death.

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“Right now, we don’t know. We know it’s probably internal,”McMorris said.

Black was traveling west on Monticello Street around 1:10 p.m.when the Amtrak began decelerating to stop for an afternoon pickupat the depot. Law enforcement and witnesses at the scene said thecrossing gates had lowered, other traffic was already stopped andthe train’s horn was blaring, but Black drove around a stopped carand attempted to zigzag through the gap between the gates.

The train struck Black’s Daewoo Nubira station wagon in thepassenger side and pushed the car just beyond the south end of thedepot, almost an entire block.

Shannon May, an employee of the Lincoln County TaxAssessor/Collector’s Office who stopped for the train and witnessedthe accident up close, said there was no way the train could havestopped before striking Black’s car.

“When she came between the rails, the train was there,” shesaid. “I was trying to give her the motion, ‘Stop! Stop! Stop!’ Itwas quick. It was like a nightmare.”

Motorists navigating through lowered gates at rail crossings indowntown Brookhaven is a common sight, especially when Amtraktrains stop just beyond them or when Canadian National crewstrigger them while working on the track.

Brookhaven Police Chief Pap Henderson stressed that no oneshould ever attempt to bypass the gates, no matter how close or fara train or work crew may be.

“That’s what we tell people all the time. When these crossingsare down, we’ve got to follow the law,” he said.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said none of the 51 passengersaboard the train were injured in the collision. The train, No. 59,departed Chicago on Tuesday and arrived in New Orleans Wednesdayabout one hour late.