PLANT CITY, Fla. (WFLA) — The sole survivor of a tragic train vs. SUV crash that killed six people is expected to make it out alive, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Saturday evening, Jose Guadalupe Hernandez, 52, was driving his family and two of their friends to a quinceañera when his Cadillac Escalade was hit by a freight train at a railroad crossing pm Jim Lefler Circle.
Deputies said Guadalupe Hernandez slowly drove onto the tracks, right into the train’s path. However, it is not known why.
“Why did the driver slow roll in front of the train?” HCSO Chief Deputy Joseph Maurer said. “Was it distraction? Was it a medical issue? That’s what our detectives are trying to determine.”
Five passengers were ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene. Guadalupe Hernandez and his front passenger Guillermo Gama, 23, were hospitalized in critical condition, but the 52-year-old died from his injuries.
The deceased victims were identified as:
- Driver: Jose G. Hernandez, 52
- Rear Passenger: Enedelia Hernandez, 50
- Rear Passenger: Jakub A. Lopez, 17
- Rear Passenger: Alyssa Hernandez, 17
- Rear Passenger: Aniella Hernandez, 22
- Rear Passenger: Julian Hernandez, 9
The sheriff’s office said Gama suffered “extreme” injuries including a brain bleed, a ruptured kidney, and a bruised lung. He remained in critical condition and was intubated as of Monday morning, but deputies said he is expected to live.
“The outlook is positive,” Maurer said.
The sheriff’s office said it is working to help the victims’ families and the community at large through victim specialists.
“I can’t speak enough about the power of a community coming together to support and pray for the victims, families, and first responders involved in this heart-wrenching crash,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said. “We are hopeful about this young man’s recovery and remain committed to not only the investigation but the healing of all those impacted.”
CSX is also investigating the incident independently. Maurer said it could result in railroad crossing arms placed at the location of the incident.
“This is a senseless tragedy that didn’t have to happen,” the chief said.