Six members of a Hispanic family were killed, including three children, when a train crashed into their van Saturday night to celebrate a Quinceañera party in Hillsborough County, Florida.
The group of seven people were on their way to a house party just across the railroad crossing when a train crashed into the vehicle around 6:45 p.m.
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The victims were identified as Julian Hernandez, 9; Jakub Lopez, 17; Alyssa Hernandez, 17; Anaelia Hernandez, 22, and Enedelia Hernandez, 50. They were all in the back seats.
In addition, rescuers were able to pull two men, the driver and co-pilot, out of the car using hydraulic rescue tools. Both were taken to a local hospital where the driver, Jose Hernandez, 52, died overnight.
Emergency crews rush to the scene of a train's crash into an SUV in Plant City, Florida, Sept. 23, 2023. WFLA
A witness parked next to the train tracks said he honked his horn to try to get the group's attention before the moment of impact.
"The van, as we can see in the video, catapults and spins violently several times before landing some distance from this crossing," Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said at a news conference Saturday night.
All of the victims are believed to have been residents of Plant City.
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The railroad crossing area is not very busy and bears a stop sign asking people to stop and look both ways before crossing the tracks, Chronister said.
Deputies and other first responders arrived at the scene after receiving a call about an accident near Jim Lefler Circle and U.S. Route 92 in Plant City.
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"It's horrible to see how the SUV looked: it looks like a crushed soda can," Chronister said. And he detailed that five passengers were "violently ejected from the SUV" after the impact, and found lifeless on the ground.
The front passenger remains in critical condition. The exact relationship between the seven occupants of the vehicle is not immediately known, although authorities referred to the group as a "family."
"The word devastating doesn't even begin to describe the tragedy that took place here," Chronister said. "Hillsborough County lost a family today and our hearts are broken."