Surveillance video captures deadly VTA light rail crash

Dramatic surveillance video shows the moment when a VTA light rail train crashed into a car in San Jose leaving two people dead. The crash happened at 12:30 p.m. Sunday at Lincoln and Auzerais Avenues in San Jose. According to witness accounts and surveillance video, it appears the driver failed to stop even though the crossing arms were down.

The video is hard to watch. In it, you see a VTA light rail train collide with a car as patrons from Hapa’s Brewing Company in San Jose watched in horror, running for cover. Caylyn Major is an employee.

“The VTA light rail was off the tracks, the car was completely smashed except for the driver's side,” said Major. 

Patrons immediately rushed to the driver's aid. Ryan Stern was one of them.

“I saw smoke and metal flying,” said Stern. 

He saw the impact and ran to help.

“I saw it. I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Stern. “I went to see if the driver was okay and any way that I could help which there wasn't. The car was completely mangled. It was quite a scene.”

“Probably after a couple minutes maybe seven minutes at the most. He was unresponsive to some of the patrons who tried to talk to him,” said Major. 

The driver and a male passenger died at the scene. The aftermath of the crash is horrendous. San Jose Police said a gold Buick Regal was driving southbound on Lincoln Avenue when it approached the VTA train crossing. Police said, the crossing arms were down and functioning. The driver drove around the crossing arms and was hit by the train. 

“It felt like a tin can was crunching,” said Train Passenger Jose Zarate. “You see the walls coming down on you. You don't know what to expect. I didn't know if it was a bomb. I didn't know what it was. I just didn't know it was a car.”

Zarate was one of 20 passengers on board the train. He injured his hand and said the train operator also suffered minor injuries.

“He had scrapes, scratches,” said Zarate. “He had blood marks on his face on his forehead. I asked him if he was okay. He said he was and just to get away from here because of the power lines. They needed to shut them down.”

The crash knocked down a large electrical pole. Crews worked through into the night to repair overhead lines and damage underneath the tracks.”

“Any passengers riding light rail, we are running a bus bridge between Convention Center and Fruitdale,” said Holly Perez of Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. “On Monday, we are going to extend that bus bridge from Convention Center to Winchester. We are encouraging anyone using our system to just be patient and check updates.”

Police are investigating if alcohol or drugs played a role or if proper seat restraints were used.

“Yield maybe if you see a train, don't rush it,” said Major. “It's just sad. I think the whole situation is just unfortunate.”

The Coroner's Office has yet to release the victim's names but witnesses said the driver appeared to be in his 60's and the passenger appeared to be a teenager. Witnesses also said it appeared the car had a lot of possessions so one or both may have been living inside the car. This is City of San Jose’s 23rd deadly traffic crash this year.