A video from a camera on the front of Brightline’s locomotive shows the crossing gates were down when the train struck and killed a Boynton Beach man as he rode his bicycle across the Florida East Coast Railway tracks in Boynton Beach this past week.
The two-minute video released Tuesday by Boynton Beach police shows Jeffrey King, 51, pedaling his bike west on Ocean Avenue into the path of the passenger train as it made its way north along the FEC tracks.
The crossing gates were down as the train approached the roadway before the accident, the video shows. King can be seen riding over one of two sets of train tracks on the FEC line before he was struck by the right side of Brightline’s locomotive.
Following the Jan. 17 accident, Zedrick Barber II, an attorney representing King’s family, had raised questions about whether the crossing gates were working properly at the intersection.
King, who was on his way home from Troy’s Barbeque, where he worked as a dishwasher, does not appear to notice the oncoming train. The train was moving at a speed of 78 mph when it struck and killed King, according to a police report released Tuesday.
Brightline’s train can operate at speeds of up to 79 mph on the FEC line.
The sound of the train’s brakes can be heard following the accident. The train came to a stop near Boynton Beach Boulevard — 1,330 feet from where King was struck, according to the report.
The ringing of a bell can also be heard on the video. The engineer told police the train’s horn was blown before going through the crossing. It’s unclear from the video whether the ringing bell sound is that of the train’s horn.
Police said they found black Croc shoes, a backpack, a cellphone and sunglasses on the tracks south of King’s body, which was found 96.5 feet from where the accident occurred.
On Tuesday, Barber, the attorney representing King’s family, told The Palm Beach Post that officials need to review more than just the gate arms.
“The gates isn’t the only issue,” Barber said. “The issue is whether or not the gates provided adequate warning.”
Barber pointed to the speed of Brightline’s train, saying the Department of Transportation needs to investigate the private rail venture’s “protocols and procedures.”
“Perhaps the gates did go down in time,” Barber said. “The question is did the average person know that the train was coming as fast as it was?”
It is illegal to go around railroad crossing gates.
Barber said he did not know whether King was wearing headphones at the time of the accident.
King is one of three people hit by a Brightline train since Jan. 12, the day before the company began shuttling paying passengers between its stations in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. In all three incidents, police said those hit did not heed warning lights and crossing gates at the intersections.
On Friday, a pedestrian was hit by the train after attempting to cross the tracks at Northeast Third Avenue and North Flagler Drive in Fort Lauderdale when the gates were down. The person’s injuries were not life-threatening, police said.
On Jan. 12, 32-year-old Melissa Lavell was struck and killed while walking near the intersection of Northeast Sixth Avenue in Boynton Beach. Witnesses told police she attempted to beat the train when the gates were down.
Most railways have cameras positioned on the front of locomotives. Boynton Beach Police said it does not have Brightline’s video of the accident that killed Lavell.
In the video released Tuesday, Brightline’s train can be seen traveling through five rail crossings before coming to a stop at the sixth crossing. The crossing gates were down at all the intersections.
Brightline engineer James Donegan, who was operating the Brightline train that hit King, told police there were three other people in the locomotive with him — a conductor, an engineer and an FEC supervisor.
There were 55 passengers and three other crew members in the train’s four passenger cars.
Following the deaths, Brightline announced Friday it would expand a public safety campaign urging people to stay off the tracks when the guard gates are down. At a news conference to unveil the safety push, Brightline’s President and Chief Operating Officer Patrick Goddard said: “The fact that these incidents are completely avoidable is what makes them so tragic.”
As part of that safety campaign, Brightline has positioned large electronic signs at several busy rail crossings along its route to warn the public that its new express trains move faster than other rail traffic.
The company also plans to deploy a team of “safety ambassadors” to key intersections to remind pedestrians and motorists to stay off the tracks when a train is approaching.
On Tuesday, Goddard called on the company’s opponents to help spread its safety message.
In a letter to the chairman of Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida — a group that has spent years fighting to block Brightline’s northern expansion to Orlando — Goddard urged the group to help with its public awareness campaign.
“What better way to communicate this message than to drop our political differences in the interest of working together for the betterment of our communities, schools and residents,” Goddard wrote in the letter to CARE Chairman Brent Hanlon. “A partnership like this would establish an unparalleled example of compromise and commitment to doing what is right.”
Hanlon said Tuesday that Goddard’s letter marks the first time “any of us can remember” that Brightline executives have reached out to the group.
“Brightline has never acknowledged the real problem—that the hundreds of at-grade crossings remain a constant threat to pedestrians, bikes and cars crossing the tracks with trains traveling 80 to 110 miles. But, we are happy to meet with AAF/Brightline to discuss safety,” Hanlon said in a statement released by the group.
Brightline’s trains are expected to reach speeds of 110 mph between West Palm Beach and Cocoa and 125 mph between Cocoa and Orlando.