Mountain View Voice

News - July 6, 2007

Woman killed in south Palo Alto train crash

Driver reportedly pulled onto tracks, was hit by Caltrain from Mountain View

by Palo Alto Weekly

A young woman is dead following a Caltrain accident in south Palo Alto in which her Toyota Camry was hit at the railroad crossing at West Meadow Drive and Alma Street.

Police said a woman drove onto the tracks eastbound as the crossing guards came down a little after 4:30 p.m. last Thursday. Witnesses said the driver got caught by a crossing barrier arm, and may have tried to beat the train across the tracks. Her car was then hit by the northbound 4:37 p.m. "Baby Bullet" train from Mountain View. The train carried the car between a half-mile and a mile from the point of impact.

The driver has been identified by the Santa Clara County Coroner's office as Maria De Jesus Nieblas, 21, of Sunnyvale.

Traffic on Alma Street at Meadow was snarled due to the accident, and officers closed the crossing at West Meadow to everyone, including pedestrians and bicyclists. Caltrain schedules were disrupted by several hours.

One witness, John O'Neill, said he was stopped directly in front of the other car at the signal at East Meadow and Alma. He said his 15-year-old daughter, Oona, saw the Camry pull partially onto the tracks when the lights and bells went on and the crossing arms began coming down.

O'Neill said Oona exclaimed, "Oh, that car has pulled too far out," and that the crossing arm had come down across the middle of its roof — indicating the driver possibly may have panicked and lurched forward into the path of the high-speed commuter train.

"The light went green and I pulled out and turned left onto Alma, and we heard the crunch," O'Neill said. They parked and ran back to the intersection, but there was only a door and a speaker on the tracks.

The car had attached itself to the train and was being pushed along the tracks sideways, he said, creating a loud screeching sound of metal on metal. He said neighbors came out thinking the train had derailed.

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