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Train-van collision claims 4
Early-morning wreck took place at worn crossing

By Jay Reeves
Associated Press Writer

THORSBY — Eight men piled into a white van in the pre-dawn chill, all bound for construction jobs as much as an hour away from their homes in rural Central Alabama.

Their trip ended at a lonely railroad crossing in a heap of twisted metal.

A freight train on a run before sunrise collided with the van early Thursday, killing four, injuring four others and, as shocked relatives arrived at the scene, prompting questions about whether the crossing was adequately marked.

With only faded, broken signs to alert motorists of the train crossing, the anguished father of one of two teenagers killed in the crash asked why more warnings weren’t in place.

“That’s a problem,” said Jesus Clavijo. His 19-year-old son Miguel was among the victims, who were all from Mexico and on their way to construction jobs.

State Trooper Donald Frazier said the collision occurred about 5:40 a.m., before the sun was up. The crossing was marked by an old stop sign that has turned to gray and a railroad crossbuck with one arm of its “X” gone.

“Right now we don’t know exactly what happened,” said Frazier.

Fresh gouges in the pavement and investigators’ paint indicated the collision occurred near the middle of the crossing. The white van was knocked or dragged about 100 feet from the roadway into a ditch beside the tracks.

CSX Corp. spokesman Craig Camuso said the railway installs crossing guards at the direction of state or local governments. Maintaining the X-shaped railroad sign at the crossing where the crash occurred is the responsibility of CSX, he said, and the county is responsible for the stop sign.

“The investigation will go a long way toward determining what kind of new grade crossing protection might be called for,” he said.

State troopers identified the dead as Miguel Clavijo, 19, Samuel Delgado, 18, Diego Parrquirre, 24, all of Thorsby; and Rico Romero Cipriana, 46, of Montevallo.

UAB Hospital spokeswoman Jennifer Lollar said one of the men injured was in critical condition and two others were in serious condition Thursday afternoon. Information was not available for the fourth man who was injured.

All from Mexico

All the victims were from Mexico and were typically on their way before dawn to construction jobs as far as 50 miles away from their Central Alabama homes, said the Rev. Antonio Inestroza, a local minister who comforted victims’ relatives at the scene.

“They were going to work, that’s what they do every morning,” said Inestroza. “They had big dreams.”

As he spoke, a man sat on the tailgate of a nearby pickup, crying.

Frazier said the white van rolled several times before landing in a ditch beside the track.

As distraught family members arrived at the scene, the vehicle lay in the ditch, with windows broken and seats and contents from inside strewn on the ground. The right front portion was crumpled.

Another CSX spokesman, Gary Sease in Jacksonville, Fla., said the train, with two locomotives and 38 cars, was headed to Louisville, Ky., from Baldwin, Fla. Many of the cars were loaded with new vehicles.

The crash happened just south of Thorsby, where Police Chief Edward Prady said 10 accidents had occurred at the town’s seven railroad crossings in the last five years. Two men were killed when a train hit a tractor-trailer about two years ago, he said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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