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SMART train collides with minivan in Santa Rosa, DUI suspected

A Santa Rosa man was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of driving under the influence of prescription drugs after he drove a minivan through crossing gates, onto railroad tracks and was hit by a Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit train, police said.

The 57-year-old, who was the sole occupant of the minivan, was taken to an area hospital. His injuries weren’t serious, although, when emergency personnel got to him he could not speak and he was not alert, Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Josh Ludtke said.

The man, whose name was not immediately released, faces charges of DUI, he added.

The collision was reported about 11 a.m. at the intersection of West Steele Lane and SMART tracks that stretch north and south parallel to the west side of Coffey Lane.

An investigation determined the driver was heading south on Coffey when he turned right onto Steele and crossed the tracks even though crossing arms were lowered and a warning alarm was activated for the northbound train.

It struck the rear of the minivan, causing it to spin out and come to a stop on the sidewalk at the northwest corner of the intersection. A portion of a chain link fence, which the minivan struck after it was hit by the train, came to rest in the street behind the van.

“He almost made it through the intersection when the train hit him,” Ludtke said.

SMART spokesman Matt Stevens said three employees and a passenger were on the train, which came to a stop less than 100 yards north of the intersection.

None of them were injured, according to the Santa Rosa Fire Department.

Authorities escorted a woman from the train and drove her from the scene in a SMART vehicle. The three SMART employees weren’t available for comment.

The train’s speed is not being disclosed due to the ongoing investigation, but Stevens said it had just departed from the Santa Rosa North station on Guerneville Road, less than a third of a mile to the south, and was not moving at full speed.

The collision happened during the end of the morning rush hour when travel was slow and no delays were expected, Stevens said.

Westbound Steele was blocked at Coffey for nearly two hours while authorities investigated the collision and inspected the crossing guard.

“When there’s an incident, we always thoroughly test railroad crossings and staging equipment to make sure it’s working properly,“ Stevens said.

All lanes were opened around 12:45 p.m. after a tow truck removed the minivan from the scene.

Press Democrat reporter Matt Pera contributed to this story

You can reach Staff Writer Colin Atagi at colin.atagi@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @colin_atagi

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