Police: Driver suffered broken hip after going around gates

Photo courtesy WNDUA car rolled over after striking a South Shore train at the Grace Street crossing on Wednesday afternoon. The train's operator and a witness said the driver, who suffered a broken hip, went around the crossing gates before the car struck the train.

MICHIGAN CITY – A car that went around a warning gate at the South Shore tracks was struck by a train Wednesday afternoon near the Carroll Street Station on the east side, according to authorities.

The Michigan City Fire Department was dispatched about 4:30 p.m. to the South Shore crossing at Grace Street, just north of Holliday and west of the station, according to department spokesman Tony Drziewicki.

"A Honda Accord was seen going around the warning signal arms when it was struck by the train," he said. "The vehicle landed on its side on the north side of the tracks."

A Michigan City Police report said Officer Brian Wright, the first to respond, found the overturned car about 4:35 p.m., with the driver inside with his feet "near the steering wheel and his upper body close to being out of the passenger window..."

He was taken by La Porte County EMS to Franciscan Health Michigan City, where it was determined he suffered a broken hip, the report said.

A paramedic told the officer that the driver "had the odor of alcoholic beverage on his breath and had advised he had consumed one beer," Wright wrote in the report.

The driver of the train, a Michigan City woman, told police she was going about 35 mph in a 40 mph zone when the vehicle "went around the gates, which caused the collision between the car and the train," Wright said in the report.

Another person in the front of the train told police the car was northbound on Grace and "went around the crossing arms," the report said.

The report noted the crossing on Grace is marked with flashing red lights, a Railroad Crossbuck sign, gates with flashing red lights in both directions, and an advanced warning sign about 200 feet south of the crossing, the direction from which the car was coming.

Officer Wright then went to the hospital to speak with the driver, a 49-year-old Michigan City man, who said "he was turning and all of a sudden there was a train there," the report said. The officer did not ask further questions due to the severity of the man's injuries.

Drziewicki said firefighters surveyed the scene, and cut the vehicle's battery terminals, but "no extrication tools were needed to remove the victim from the vehicle."

Witnesses said there was only one person in the car, and he was awake and alert when taken from the vehicle.

South Shore Train 20 was involved in the collision, according to Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District alerts. The agency suspended all trains in both directions while the scene was cleared.

The train returned to the Carroll Station for a maintenance inspection before being returned to service, and some other trains were delayed for up to two hours.

The police report noted the train had damage to the front end, lower right indicator light, air system, and along the side of the train car from the vehicle, as well as a tire tread scuff along the side of the windows. The car was totaled.

The report cited the driver's failure to yield, disregarding of the signal, and driving left of center as the only contributing factors in the crash.

There were no reports of injuries on the train.

—From staff reports

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