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Investigators Examine Fatal Crash Site After SUV And MARC Train Collide

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Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — They didn’t survive the impact, but did they die taking a chance to beat an oncoming train?

That’s one avenue investigators are examining in a deadly collision between an SUV and a MARC train.

Alex DeMetrick has new details on the victims and a possible cause for the crash.

The victims are the SUV’s driver, 23-year-old Morgan Fleet, and her passenger, 38-year-old Wayne Burnett Jr. The question investigators want answered is how they got onto the tracks at a guarded railroad crossing.

Federal law dictates a train sounds its horn 15 seconds before reaching a crossing. The one on Hollins Ferry Road is equipped with lights, bells and a barricade gate, which activate well before that horn sounds.

But even with the safeguards, federal regulators call this the second most dangerous crossing in Maryland. Here’s why:

“They go around the gate all day long,” said Jim Vance.

He works within feet of the crossing.

“The barricade comes down, the lights come on, the bells ring, the train blows the horn. They’ll stop at the barricade and then go around and try to beat it,” Vance said.

That is one possibility investigators are exploring in Tuesday morning’s crash that killed Morgan Fleet and her passenger, Wayne Burnett Jr. The other possibility is the SUV became stranded on the tracks before the safety gate activated.

“Detectives from our crash unit responded to the scene and they’re continuing to investigate this incident,” said Jeremy Silbert, Baltimore City Police.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, every day, 42 MARC and CSX trains pass through the crossing. The average speed is 50 miles per hour.

In the past five years, there have been two other collisions at the crossing, but no one was injured.

According to federal calculations, there is a 15 percent chance of an accident happening at the crossing in any given year.

Investigators will also be checking to see if safety equipment was working at the time of the accident. CSX Railroad Police patrolling the crossing Wednesday say they routinely pull over people who jump the gate. When they do:

“It’s a gamble you can’t win ’cause you can’t stop that train,” said Vance.

The typical load of a freight train weighs between 4,000 and 8,000 tons.

The most dangerous crossing in Maryland is on Randolph Road in Rockville, where there is a 30 percent chance of a crash happening at any given time.

There are no obvious video cameras at the crossing It’s not known if the MARC engine was equipped with a camera.

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