CARY — Investigators say it appears that a car that was hit by an Amtrak train on Thursday morning drove around one of the crossing arms that blocked Southwest Maynard Road as the train approached.
One person was killed and another injured when Amtrak’s Silver Star hit the passenger side of a Mitsubishi Gallant at the crossing at about 11:25 a.m.
The driver of the car, Benny Derrick Dimery, was taken to WakeMed, while his girlfriend, Lauren Webb, 21, was pronounced dead at the scene, said Cary police Lt. Steve Wilkins. Dimery and Webb were both from Laurinburg in Scotland County, Wilkins said.
Authorities were still trying to determine how the accident took place, but Wilkins said it appeared that Dimery tried to drive the Gallant around the crossing arms. The train was going 55 to 57 mph when it hit the car, he said.
“Obviously the train was coming, and the car was on the track. So that’s what we know,” Wilkins said. “Putting two and two together you would seem to think the car had driven around the [railroad] arms and that’s what I’m told happened, but you know we’ve got to verify.”
Dimery, 24, was conscious when emergency workers pulled him from the wreckage, said Cary Fire Department Battalion Chief Barry Jones. He was listed in serious condition Thursday afternoon.
One of Dimery’s neighbors in Laurinburg, Pattie Pate, said she has known him since he was a child. Pate did not know why he was in the Triangle, but said he has an aunt who lives in Raleigh.
Wilkins said Dimery could be charged if investigators determine he contributed to the accident. He added that investigators will also see what they can learn to prevent future accidents at the railroad crossing.
“Is there something we need to do differently with the intersection, with the train crossing, that sort of thing and then whether or not the driver of the vehicle committed some type of violation that contributed to the crash,” Wilkins said.
Southwest Maynard Road remained closed for several hours between West Chatham Street and Old Apex Road, while rescue workers and investigators responded to the accident.
The northbound Silver Star was heading inbound to Cary’s Amtrak station when the accident occurred. The Silver Star runs between Miami, Fla., and New York City and was carrying 282 passengers, according to an Amtrak spokeswoman.
None of the train cars derailed, and all passengers remained on board. The train was allowed to continue on its trip at about 2:15 p.m., but the intersection remained closed for another couple of hours while workers removed the car.
Maynard is five lanes wide at the crossing – two lanes in each direction with a turn lane in the middle. In addition to the crossing arms, there are warning lights next to the road and on poles over the crossing.
Wilkins called the accident a tragedy that should serve as a reminder that train crossings can be very dangerous.
“We would never encourage anyone to ever drive around a train arm or to get on a track when the signal is indicating a train may be coming,” he said. “You always have to look both ways. ‘Cause a train can be coming from any direction at any time on any set of railroad tracks.”
Ramos: 919-460-2609; Twitter: @AlianaCaryNews