Story by Lourice Angie
On Wed., Dec. 4, an MNJ Middletown, New Jersey Railroad train, traveling through Warwick, struck a vehicle on the railroad tracks located at the railroad crossing intersection on Forester Ave. in Warwick.
According to reports released by the Warwick Fire Department and the Warwick Police Department at approximately 11:55 a.m., they received a call about an accident involving a vehicle being struck by a train on Forester Ave. Upon arrival, first responders discovered a 2013 Ford Escape lying on its side near the railroad tracks and a stopped train through the intersection of the railroad crossing.
Gates & Signals at Crossing Not Activated
Police reported that the vehicle appeared to be heading north on Forester Ave. and the train was heading west. Video footage obtained from a nearby business showed that the gates and signals at the railroad crossing were not activated. Police identified the driver as Gabriella Mignone, 19, of Warwick.
It appears that because of the malfunction, Mignone was not warned of the oncoming train. She continued to drive through the intersection at the railroad crossing, but did not see the train coming. When she did notice the train, she attempted to make an evasive maneuver, but was unable to make it across before the train struck her vehicle. She was transported by Warwick EMS to St. Anthony Community Hospital, where she was evaluated and treated for minor injuries.
“I am dealing with shock at this time. I’m grateful to God in prayer,” said Mignone’s mother who was reached out to for comment by this reporter.
Warwick Police Lieutenant Thomas Maslanka said that within the last 32 years he cannot ever recall an accident in Warwick involving a car and a train.
“There are some occasions where a malfunction may occur on the railroad gates, but it’s usually that the railroad gates come down and stay down, not the other way around. In all the years that I’ve been here, I cannot recall anything like this happening. She is very fortunate that the train conductor was using caution,” said Lt. Maslanka.
Tragedy Avoided During Hazardous Conditions
Fortunately, the train was traveling at a very low rate of speed and was able to make a complete stop. The train was pulling approximately 10 to 15 cars led by two locomotives. The first locomotive struck the vehicle, but the second never made it past the intersection.
The train operator, Paul Clause, 57, of Cooperstown, NY, indicated to Police that he had been traveling slower and more cautiously than normal due to a snowstorm that occurred two days prior which caused many fallen trees and branches along the train tracks.
“Trains are allowed to go up to 20 mph through there, but even with 15 cars attached, it would take them about a half a mile to stop the train. I give the train the train conductor a lot of credit for being able to stop in short order, but the vehicle did not have a warning until the last minute,” said Lt. Maslanka.
Mignone was able to climb out of her vehicle on her own, and thankfully there were two officers nearby at Campsite Way., on Forester Ave., and they immediately responded,” said Lt. Maslanka.
Railroad Utility workers were on the scene immediately following the accident, to examine and repair the faulty railroad signal. Police are still investigating the accident at this time.