NEW IBERIA — The railroad crossing in New Iberia where an Amtrak train slammed into a car Tuesday, killing three people and seriously injuring three others, has been the site of a number of train-vehicle crashes.
Few details have emerged about why the car carrying the six New Iberia residents was stopped on the railroad crossing when, shortly before 6 p.m., an Amtrak train hit the vehicle, killing two girls and the 70-year-old woman driving the car and critically injuring three others.
Police said the train’s impact pushed Phyllis Leblanc’s 2006 Ford Taurus off the tracks at the junction of La. 88 (Coteau Road) and La. 182.
Leblanc and 12-year-olds Jayla Daigle and Trinity Schmidt were pronounced dead on the scene.
Two 12-year-old twin boys, whose names have not been released, and Steve Leblanc, 49, remained in critical condition at an area hospital on Wednesday afternoon, said Brooks David, State Police spokesman for Troop I.
All four children were sixth-graders at Daspit Elementary School, according to a KATC-TV report.
Teacher Tiffany Menard, whose students include Trinity and Jayla, told KATC-TV that a birthday party was planned that evening for the twin boys. Menard said Leblanc, the driver, was the grandmother of the boys.
Police are still investigating why the car was stopped on the tracks. David said traffic-restricting gates at the crossing were functioning properly, and it does not appear Leblanc steered the vehicle around the gates once they were activated.
“She was just stopped on the railroad tracks,” David said.
Impairment is not suspected, but standard toxicology samples were obtained and sent to the State Police Crime Lab for analysis, he said.
Amtrak spokesman Mike Tolbert said none of the 119 passengers on the Amtrak train was hurt in the incident. He said the train, the Sunset Limited traveling from Los Angeles to New Orleans, resumed its trip about 8:45 p.m.
Inspectors for BNSF Railway and the Federal Railroad Administration on Wednesday afternoon were surveying the railroad crossing and about 20 yards of grassy area on the east side of La. 88.
Police said the Taurus was traveling north on the highway toward La. 182.
FRA incident reports indicate there have been other train-vehicle accidents at the crossing, including four since 2010. Of those four accidents, three of the vehicles that had been hit were stopped on the tracks ahead of the crash, according to the FRA incident reports.
No injuries or fatalities were reported in any of those cases.
The last fatality recorded at the intersection was in 2002, when an Amtrak train carrying 147 passengers crashed into a vehicle driven by a 46-year-old man who did not stop at the crossing, according to the incident report.
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