ATWATER -- A woman escaped her car just before a Union Pacific train slammed into it this morning at Commerce and Southern Pacific avenues. The victim, who the California Highway Patrol declined to identify, was not injured, though her 2003 Chevrolet Impala was totaled. At about 10:20 a.m., the woman was trying to cross the tracks next to Atwater Boulevard and head north when the crossing guards came down, CHP Officer Charles Watson said. The car was in between the two safety arms and as the train approached at 40 mph, she escaped. "It's a pretty simple accident," he said, "but it's unfortunate." Union Pacific train conductor Dennis Green said the crossing guard arms are designed to break away and the driver could have pulled forward or backed up to avoid the train. "She did the right thing and jumped out," he added. Green's 120-car train heading south to Bakersfield was carrying about 14,000 tons of corn. He said he pushed the horn to warn her and began braking, though it still took him a couple hundred yards to stop. Officers with the CHP and the Atwater Police Department responded, though Watson said Union Pacific has its own police, which may take over the collision investigation. Watson said the wreck could lead to a citation, though the CHP doesn't usually issue them for crashes like this since it goes on the driver's record. Union Pacific can bring charges, he noted, like abandoning a vehicle on the train tracks.
Keep checking MercedSunStar.com for video of the wreck.