A driver got stuck on train tracks after a GPS reportedly directed them to turn onto the rails Sunday night in Ashland, Massachusetts. Fortunately, the driver was able to escape the car before an MBTA Commuter Rail train struck it at the Main Street crossing.
No one was injured, the Ashland Fire Department and MBTA Transit Police said. Authorities said this isn't the first time an incident like this has happened.
“It appears that the operator of the car inadvertently turned onto the railroad tracks from Main Street, believing it was a roadway, and ultimately got stuck on the tracks," acting Police Chief Richard Briggs said. "It has happened in the past at that location as well unfortunately. We are fortunate nobody was injured.“
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Video from the scene showed a mangled car, which was a dramatic scene to take in for people like Ribbons Simonelli, who didn't immediately realize there was no one inside the car when it was hit.
“I peered over and saw just totaled car," said Simonelli, who works at Stone's Public House near the scene. "I first thought someone was in it, so I was heartbroken at the thought of someone being in that car."
A spokesperson for Keolis -- the company that operates the commuter rail -- told NBC10 Boston in an email that Worcester Train 2513 (the 5 p.m. from South Station) struck an empty vehicle that had been abandoned by its driver on the tracks near the Main Street crossing in Ashland.
The spokesperson said there were no injuries to the 73 passengers or crew, and "all warning systems were functioning as intended."
The Worcester Line train remained stopped at Ashland for more than two hours, and the MBTA reported multiple delays following the incident. Eventually the passengers were let off in Ashland at the train station, and then transferred to another train.
Normal service has since resumed on the Worcester Line, but passengers were warned they might experience residual delays, the MBTA said.
Nuno Figueiral, owner of Lunkers Outfitters next door, said he has had concerns about safety at the intersection in the past.
"I know one time I believe it was a senior citizen who went through and took a right onto the tracks thinking it was a road… and got stuck on the railroad tracks and of course they had to remove the car there," Figueiral said.
Figueiral said he also noticed some flashing lights that sometimes don't turn off, as well as impatient drivers trying to get around the gates.
“There’s obviously something that should be done because this seems to happen every year," Figueiral said.
The last time a commuter rail train crashed into a car was in the same place two years ago to the day. A grandfather and grandson escaped just minutes before the car was hit.
Simonelli said she is thankful both two years ago and this Sunday that no one was hurt.
“When you come through here it’s kind of hard to tell the difference, especially at night where the road is and the tracks are, so my thought was he turned onto the tracks and by the time he realized it was too late he just hopped out and took off,” she said.
The crossing was closed while the train was inspected and the car was removed from the scene. There was also a small fuel spill from the car following the collision, the fire department said.
The crash is under investigation. It comes less than a month after an MBTA commuter rail train struck a car in Wilmington, killing the 68-year-old woman inside.
MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak released a statement just days after that crash saying they had learned enough to report that human error was the "primary focus" of their investigation into Roberta Sausville's death, with a preliminary investigation revealing that a signal maintainer for Keolis did not return the safety system to its normal operating mode following preventative maintenance.