The car, possibly a Chrysler 300, went around another vehicle stopped at the Van Hut Lane crossing and “tried to cut through the arms” that were down, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said.
The car collided with the passenger train and was “quickly engulfed in flames,” Harris said. Two people were thrown from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene, he added.
“The sound and the arms were down at the train crossing,” Gonzalez said. “There’s a reason that those arms are activated, lights and sounds are activated, it’s to keep the community safe and to alert that there’s a train approaching.”
The train was carrying 81 passengers and traveling westbound from New Orleans to Los Angeles, Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said in a statement.
The train remained upright and intact on track, the statement said.
“It never ends well when somebody tries to beat a train,” Gonzalez said. “It’s going to be a lengthy investigation.”
Amtrak said it’s working with local law enforcement to investigate the crash.