WHITE CASTLE — Investigators with the Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office are hoping footage captured by the cameras installed at the front of the train that crashed into an SUV on Thursday, killing a pair of Baton Rouge siblings, will show why their vehicle had stopped on the railroad track.
“At this point, we’re really not sure,” said Sgt. Derrick McPhate, with the Sheriff’s Office. “Witnesses say they were parked on the tracks.”
Those accounts conflict with earlier reports from Sheriff Brett Stassi, who had said the siblings were trying to cross the railroad tracks at La. 1 and Dorcy Road about noon while a Union Pacific train was approaching.
The railroad crossing, on a narrow street north of White Castle, is not outfitted with warning lights or crossing guards.
Byron Henderson, 41, and Myra Henderson, 42, were headed westbound down Dorcy Road, authorities said, on their way to a funeral at St. Mary Baptist Church, which is within walking distance of the railroad crossing.
Stassi said the siblings may have paused on the railroad tracks to look for a parking space.
Many of the people who attended the funeral were parked along the grassy median that runs alongside the railroad track.
McPhate said witnesses told him the train, which was traveling southbound, hit the rear end of the vehicle, sending the SUV flying into a nearby ditch before it hit one of the vehicles parked along the railroad track. Witnesses said the SUV was then torn in half when it slammed into a nearby tree, causing the two severed pieces to smash into two more parked vehicles, he said.
“From what we can tell, both of them were wearing their seat belts, but we think they were thrown from the vehicle once it hit the tree,” McPhate said. “We talked to Union Pacific and they say they have footage proving their guy was blowing the horn for 40 seconds straight to try and warn them.”
Jeff DeGraff, a spokesman for Union Pacific Railroad, said he did not know the specific speed the train was traveling at the time of the crash.
“That’s part of the information we’ll be collecting as we do our investigation,” DeGraff said. “I can confirm the speed limit for trains in that area is 60 mph, and this train was traveling below that limit.”
There were seven Union Pacific employees aboard the train; none were injured, DeGraff said.
“How the vehicle ended up in front of the train, we haven’t determined yet; that’s part of what we’re trying to figure out,” DeGraff said. “We’ll be piecing together the details as best we can.”
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.