The driver, Renee McKenzie, 29, a Gary resident, and her passenger, William McCurry, 32, of Chicago, were both killed instantly, officials said.
Just before a tow truck removed the mangled wreckage of a Dodge Charger, one eyewitness, who withheld her name, said she saw the car go around lowered crossing gates before getting hit by the train at about 5:45 a.m. on Lake Street, just north of Melton Road (U.S. 20) in Gary.
“I knew the train was coming, and this car in front of me, he didn’t even stop,” said the witness, a Miller resident. “(The driver) just went around the gate. I just saw pieces of the car fly off. I didn’t realize the car was dragged down the track until I called Gary police.”
The Lake County Coroner’s office said both victims died from blunt force trauma.
CSX spokeswoman Carla Groleau said the intermodel train was bound for Ohio, having left Chicago earlier Friday morning. There were no injuries to the train crew, she said.
Traffic was snarled for hours after the crash at Lake Street and Miller Avenue shortly before 6 a.m. Cars piled up north and south of the double railroad main tracks, while Gary and CSX police examined the wreckage about 150 yards east of the intersection.
Two trains on parallel tracks were halted, blocking both County Line Road and Lake Street, the only roads leading out of the beach neighborhood. Lakeshore Dunes apartments are located north of the tracks on Lake Street just blocks from Lake Michigan.
Groleau said a westbound train, traveling from New York to Chicago, was stopped for a time during the investigation.
Gary police allowed one train to move about 8 a.m. so cars could use County Line Road, but Lake Street wasn’t opened until 9:50 a.m.
A portion of the car’s bumper lay alongside other car parts just south of the crossing gates, which were down. Two CSX workers worked on a box attached to the lowered crossing gates.
The crossing has seen its share of horrific incidents. Four years ago, three teens were killed while crossing the tracks. A memorial of wooden crosses, all painted white, surrounded by ragged stuffed animals and decorative stones marks remains about 150 feet away from Lake Street.
Griffith resident Theodora Wilks, who works at a business along the tracks, said she and coworkers often watch cars race around lowered crossing gates, trying to beat oncoming trains.
“These people are going around the gates on the track constantly,” Wilks said. “It’s horrible. They blow and blow their (car) horns all the time.
WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
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