2 dead as Brightline train crashes into SUV on tracks in Delray Beach

DELRAY BEACH — Two people died Wednesday night when a Brightline train struck their SUV near Delray Beach's southern border, city police said.

Police did not immediately identify the people killed in the wreck at Lindell Boulevard and Old Dixie Highway, which the city reported on its Twitter page at about 9 p.m. Witnesses said the SUV was on the FEC Railway tracks at the intersection when a southbound train struck it, police said.

Delray Beach police spokesperson Ted White said a northbound freight train had passed the SUV moments before the southbound Brightline train struck it. The track's crossing gates were down at time, he said.

Fatal crashes:A detailed list of Brightline train deaths in Palm Beach County

High-speed tests:What you need to know about Brightline's upcoming 110 mph train tests

It was not immediately clear how fast the train was traveling at the time of the wreck or why the SUV was in the crossing, just north of the Boca Raton city limit. White said the SUV's two occupants were both adults, but he did not release any other identifying information. The investigation into the crash remains active, he said.

The deaths bring the total of Brightline fatalities in Palm Beach County to at least 25 since the rail line began service between West Palm Beach and Miami in January 2018, according to Palm Beach Post records. The fatality followed one Jan. 21 in Boca Raton. There were 10 deaths in the county during 2022.

The FEC Railway tracks, which Brightline shares with the freight line, have few barriers blocking pedestrians from walking on them. Brightline officials have been quick to note that the fatalities have involved pedestrians walking on the tracks or motorists who try to beat trains. None have been the fault of their engineers, they said.

Brightline and the Florida Department of Transportation are investing millions in making rail crossings safer. They also are seeking federal grant money to help pay for projects such as barriers to keep pedestrians and motorists off the tracks and from going around crossing gates.

Brightline this month will begin testing high-speed service from West Palm Beach to areas north of Palm Beach County as it expands service to Orlando International Airport. Trains will travel as fast as 110 mph during daily daytime tests that start Saturday and will run through March. Flaggers will be present at crossings during tests.

Service to Orlando International Airport is scheduled to start this year, Brightline officials have said. The rail line recently opened a station in Boca Raton, 2 miles south of the crash site.

Staff writer Julius Whigham II contributed to this story.

Tom Elia is the public safety editor at The Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY-Florida Network. You can reach him at telia@pbpost.com. Support local journalism: Subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Brightline crash: 2 dead after train hits SUV at Delray Beach crossing