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Three injured when train hits car at 67 mph

ATWATER -- Three people were injured Thursday morning when the compact sedan they were riding in was struck by a fast-moving freight train at Shaffer Road south of Santa Fe Drive.

Officer Shane Ferriera, California Highway Patrol spokesman, said Jose Gaten, 21, of Atwater drove his 1996 Mazda 626 sedan around the downed crossing arms at the BNSF Railway into the path of the westbound freight, traveling at 67 mph. The train's engineer was Frank San Nicolas Jr., 37, of Fresno.

Ferriera said another westbound train was stopped east of the intersection. Gaten made a right turn from Santa Fe Drive onto Shaffer Road, stopping behind the crossing arms before proceeding around the barriers. The right front of Gaten's sedan struck the left front of the train. The car traveled in an easterly direction, coming to rest about 100 feet east of the intersection.

Officer Christina Wills said Gaten and his passengers, Antonio Piceno, 23, of Winton and Elvis Gutierrez, 21, of Atwater were taken to the Community Campus of Mercy Medical Center Merced for treatment of minor to moderate injuries.

Ferriera said the crossing arms and lights were in good working order at the time of the collision. Gaten's car received major right front and right side damage in the 11:20 a.m. crash. The accident remains under investigation.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at 209 385-2485 or