A light-rail train full of passengers struck a vehicle and then pushed it down the tracks in south Minneapolis on Friday night, killing the car’s driver.

The northbound train hit the car about 6:30 p.m. where the tracks cross E. 26th Street near Hiawatha Avenue, according to Bruce Howard, a Metro Transit spokesman.

The 55-year-old man who was driving the car west on E. 26th Street appeared to have driven under the crossing gates at the time of the collision, Howard said. He died at the scene.

Nobody on the train was injured.

The train and car came to rest on the tracks 500 to 600 feet north of where the collision occurred close to the Sabo Bridge. A fire briefly burned in and around the car before it was put out.

The train was going between 40 and 50 miles per hour and could not have stopped completely without several hundred feet of clearance in which to slow down, Howard said.

As is standard procedure, the operator of the train is being relieved of duty pending an investigation, Howard said.

Several people who were on the train at the time of the accident said that the operator announced that the train had hit a car before telling passengers to get off the train. The operator then went out with a fire extinguisher to help put out the fire, they said. Buses came to the scene to pick up train passengers.

“We didn’t even feel it, that’s how soft it was,” passenger Donald Chatman, 43, of Mound, said of the impact. He said he thought the operator “was trying to stop the train as best he could.”

As darkness fell, the crash scene, in front of the Metro Transit rail technical support center, was clogged with police cars, fire trucks and ambulances. Traffic was routed off Hiawatha Avenue.

Due to the accident, light-rail service was disrupted between the Franklin Avenue and 46th Street stations. Buses replaced trains in that area.

In August 2009, a pedestrian stepped in front of a northbound train in the same area of Friday’s accident.