Amtrak Train 20, which travels from New Orleans to New York City, killed two Meridian residents Monday when it struck a vehicle at an ungated crossing off US Highway 11, south of the Meridian Regional Airport.
The victims were Tannis Utley, a 55-year-old woman, and Henry Lee Forbes, a 75-year-old man.
The train was just outside the City of Meridian and traveling northeast when it struck the vehicle around 1:10 p.m., Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie said.
The collision happened south of Arundel Road when the two were exiting the driveway of a local business, attempting to enter Highway 11, Chief Deputy Ward Calhoun said.
They died upon impact, Sollie said.
"(This is) never easy," said Sollie, adding that similar accidents have occurred in this railroad community over the years, "in spurts."
The train came to a stop around three miles south of the airport.
The Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department, Lauderdale County Fire Service and Norfolk Southern Corporation responded to the collision.
Norfolk Southern owns, controls, maintains and dispatches the route, said Marc Magliari, a public relations manager for Amtrak. It is routine for Norfolk Southern employees to be at the scene of accidents on tracks they own, said a Norfolk telephone operator.
Besides its engines, the train consisted of more than six passenger cars. Passengers remained onboard the train while the accident was investigated. The track was cleared by around 4 p.m.
A statement from Amtrak stressed safety when crossing tracks.
“The safety of our customers, employees and public is our top priority,” it stated. “Amtrak has a police department with a national safety mission and a partnership with Operation Lifesaver, a national, non-profit safety railroad education group whose goal is to eliminate deaths and injuries at railroad crossings and along railroad rights of way.”
“With programs in all 50 states and Canada, the organization has trained volunteers who provide free safety talks to community groups, school bus drivers, truck drivers and student drivers to raise awareness of the dangers around railroad tracks and trains.”