The driver of a van hung up at a Flowery Branch railroad crossing was seen getting out of the vehicle and walking away moments before a deadly train crash, Channel 2 Action News reported.
Surveillance footage of the Wednesday morning collision showed the van’s driver, identified by the Georgia State Patrol as 45-year-old Jose Gomez, attempt to cross the tracks at Lights Ferry Road and Atlanta Highway as lights flashed and the crossing arms came down.
In the video, obtained by Channel 2, Gomez appeared to leave the van just as a Norfolk Southern freight train enters the intersection. It was hit just before 7 a.m.
Both of Gomez’s passengers were seriously injured and taken to a hospital. Kevin Perez, 16, later died, according to the GSP. The other passenger was identified as 17-year-old Alex Gonzalez Perez, Channel 2 reported.
Gomez is now facing a count of improper stopping on railroad tracks and a second-degree vehicular homicide charge in the 16-year-old’s death, Hall County Jail records show. He is being held in the jail Thursday in lieu of a $16,830 bond, and the jail told Channel 2 he can’t post it since they haven’t been able to verify his citizenship.
The crash investigation closed the crossing and another downtown Flowery Branch intersection, Spring Street and Atlanta Highway, for several hours.
The Spring Street intersection reopened just after 10 a.m., and the crash investigation wrapped up at Lights Ferry Road around 11:30 a.m. The closures caused extra congestion Wednesday morning on the first day of school for the Hall County district.
A spokeswoman for Norfolk Southern said the company was assisting local law enforcement.
In a statement, Norfolk Southern said the crossing was equipped with gates, lights, bells and crossbucks. The train was leaving Atlanta and bound for New Jersey when the accident happened.
“At Norfolk Southern, the safety of our employees and the communities we serve is our No. 1 priority,” the company said. “Norfolk Southern advises motorists and pedestrians to stay alert around railroad tracks, and to be mindful of all warning signs and signals at railroad crossings.”