Winter Park Police were left with a mystery, a body and a distant train whistle Sunday night after a man was hit by an Amtrak train behind the Sunoco gas station on Orlando Avenue, just south of where Winter Park meets Maitland.
Rescue crews found the man in critical condition before he succumbed to his injuries in the hospital shortly after.
The victim has yet to be identified as of press time.
“It’s going to be 10 to 12 weeks out before the medical examiner rules it was an accident or suicide or whatever it happens to be,” said Lt. Pam Marcum of the Winter Park Police Department.
“Until the final report comes in, it would be speculation. There’s only a couple ways that the examiner could probably rule on a case like this, whether it was accidental or he intentionally put himself out in front of the train.”
She added that only five or six people have been hit by trains in the city in her 25-year career, with the last one happening about 10 years ago.
Winter Park and the surrounding areas have seen their fair share of cars hit by SunRail trains though. At least a dozen collisions have happened since SunRail’s first commuter train left the station in May 2014. Each of the crashes resulted from the vehicle being on or near the tracks when a train was passing by, including a woman in Maitland who said she was learning to drive stick shift in her two-door black Infiniti and stalled on the tracks during the first month of SunRail service. The woman was able to jump out of her car before the SunRail train hit.
“It’s frightening … I’m sure there are other people like me, thinking they can make it through because traffic’s moving, but then it stops and you’re stuck,” Maitland Councilwoman Bev Reponen told the Observer that month. “It’s an unreal situation, and I’m afraid some people are going to sit there and panic.”
Marcum said that in general drivers should play it safe and start slowing down well before the crossing gate comes down.
“Most of the time it’s because people stop on the tracks in traffic or something like that,” Marcum said.
“It’s a big train and you’re a little car. Stay behind that stop bar.”