Winton man dies after train strikes vehicle

11/04/2013 10:59 AM

11/04/2013 11:47 AM

A 32-year-old Winton man died Saturday after he was hit by flying debris from a vehicle that was struck by a train on Olive Avenue, just south of Santa Fe Drive, the California Highway Patrol reported.

Aaron Schindler was a passenger in a 1999 Dodge Caravan that became stuck on railroad tracks around 8:30 p.m. Saturday in Winton, the Merced County Coroner’s Office said.

Schindler and two other people in the van escaped the vehicle before the collision, the CHP said.

However, the collision sent debris “flying through the air” that struck Schindler, causing fatal injuries. Schindler was taken to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead, the CHP said.

How the vehicle became stuck on the tracks remained under investigation Monday and it was not clear if there were problems with the vehicle, the railroad tracks or both, but Officer Jason Schoonhoven said early indications point to possible mechanical problems with the vehicle.

The two passengers, Rebecca Schindler, 59, and Nita Rose, 35, both of Winton, were not injured. The train conductor, Thomas McGrath, 31, of San Francisco, also wasn’t hurt.

Neither drugs nor alcohol appear to have been factors, the CHP said.

Efforts to reach Schindler’s family and friends were unsuccessful Monday.

The 2006 Amtrak San Joaquin train was carrying 67 passengers, none of whom were injured in the crash. The train sustained minor damage and was delayed for one hour, 40 minutes. Two other Amtrak passenger trains were delayed briefly as a result of the collision, Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham said.

Amtrak plans to work in conjunction with the CHP and other agencies to determine the cause of the crash. It was not known when that investigation could be completed, Graham said.

Amtrak officials referred questions regarding railroad track conditions in that area to the Federal Railroad Administration in Washington, D.C., which declined to comment.

Federal Railroad Administration records indicate there have been three previous incidents since 1978 where vehicles became stuck on that portion of the railroad tracks and were subsequently struck by trains. No injuries were reported in any of those incidents.

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