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1 victim dies after train hits van in South Hall; driver charged
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One person has died and another was seriously injured Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, when a train struck a van in Flowery Branch just before 7 a.m. near Lights Ferry Road and Atlanta Highway. - photo by Scott Rogers

One passenger died and another was seriously injured when a train struck a van in Flowery Branch just before 7 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 7.

Kevin Perez, 16, of Lawrenceville, succumbed to his injuries suffered in the incident. Georgia State Patrol Post Commander Auston Allen said he was sitting in the front passenger seat.

A second passenger was Alexander Gonzales-Perez, 17, of Lawrenceville, who was sitting in the right rear seat.

He was still in serious condition at Northeast Georgia Medical Center as of 4 p.m. Wednesday.

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One person has died and one was seriously injured Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, when a train struck a van in Flowery Branch just before 7 a.m. at Lights Ferry Road and Atlanta Highway. - photo by Scott Rogers

Allen described his injuries as broken bones to the lower extremities.

There is no relation between the passengers.

“(The driver) had exited the vehicle prior to the collision.”

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Jose Gomez
The driver, identified as Jose Gomez, 45, of Norcross, was charged with second-degree vehicular homicide and improper stopping on a railroad track.

“Preliminary information is that the vehicle was stopped on the tracks when the train was approaching,” said Flowery Branch Police Department spokesman Matthew Mahathey.

The Aug. 7 incident drew numerous onlookers, several of whom were taking pictures. The intersection is busy, with convenience stores on two corners and traffic coming and going from Interstate 985.

Brene Stinchcomb, cashier at the BP gas station off Phil Niekro Boulevard, said she was helping a customer “and then all I heard was ‘boom!’”

“At first, I thought it was just the train, but then a customer said, ‘No, they actually hit somebody,’” she said.


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One person has died and another is seriously injured after a train struck a van in Flowery Branch just before 7 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, at Lights Ferry Road and Atlanta Highway. - photo by Scott Rogers

Mayor Mike Miller, watching as crews worked at the scene, said the crossing, which has a steep grade and little room for cars to wait on the traffic signal, poses challenges.

“You’ve got a city where the railroad crosses in the middle of downtown,” he said. “The railroad’s not going anywhere, so we have to deal with it the best we can.” 

The Georgia State Patrol is investigating the incident.

In an email, Norfolk Southern spokeswoman Rachel Bradshaw acknowledged the incident and said only that Norfolk Southern assisted local law enforcement in investigating it.

“The crossing was equipped with gates, lights, bells and crossbucks,” she said.

The train was en route from Atlanta to Rutherford, N.J.

“The safety of our employees and the communities we serve is our No. 1 priority,” Bradshaw said. “Norfolk Southern advises motorists and pedestrians to stay alert around railroad tracks, and to be mindful of all warning signs and signals at railroad crossings.”

Reporter Layne Saliba contributed to this report.

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