NORCROSS - An elderly man was killed Friday morning when he disregarded railroad signals, driving across tracks on Langford Road before being struck by an oncoming passenger train, authorities said.
Police believe railroad crossing warning arms were lowered at 8:38 a.m. when a Kia sedan apparently was driven around them in an attempt to cross the road.
An Amtrack passenger train bound for New Orleans on a Norfolk Southern rail line attempted to stop, but slammed into a rear door of the vehicle while traveling approximately 79 mph, said Sgt. Wayne Thaxton, supervisor of the Gwinnett Police Accident Investigation Unit.
"The vehicle spun real, real violently and burst into flames," Thaxton said. "Some of the first to arrive tried to get the gentleman out, but they were unable to."
Police believe the victim is a local man in his 80s, but his name was withheld pending official verification of his identity. The man died on impact.
The passengers on the Amtrak were not injured. The passengers told police they felt only "a slight bump, not even a disturbing bump" when the collision occurred, Thaxton said.
The vehicle came to rest about 50 feet from the crash site, while the train was able to stop about 200 to 300 feet down the tracks.
Thaxton warned motorists to heed railroad traffic signals in light of the accident.
"It is extremely dangerous," Thaxton said. "A train traveling at that speed is going 100 to 120 feet per second. They can be on you in a second."
Authorities plan to verify the victim's identity through dental records on Monday before releasing his name.