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Police say a train engineer saw the driver stop and then drive around the gates, which were down.

Photo provided by West Hennepin Public Safety Department,

Driver struck and killed by train in west metro

  • March 8, 2014 - 6:51 PM

A 25-year-old woman died early Saturday after the car she was driving was struck by a train in the west metro.

Paulina Lang, 25, of Buffalo was driving westbound on Hwy. 12 about 1:15 a.m. and turned onto County Road 92 near Independence, a town about a half-hour west of Minneapolis.

Police say a train engineer saw Lang stop at the train crossing, which runs parallel to Hwy. 12, and then drive around the train gates, which were down, said Rick Denneson, West Hennepin public safety officer.

A westbound Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train struck Lang’s 2013 Chevy Spark and she died at the scene. She was the only one in the compact car, and no one was injured on the train, Denneson said.

BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth said that the train crossing was protected with gates and flashing lights on both sides, which were working at the time of the crash. It was the second car-train crash in the area in just over a month.

At the end of January, Denneson said a taxi driving about a mile east of Saturday’s crash site got stuck on train tracks and was hit by a passing train; the driver in that incident, though, escaped the vehicle before the crash.

It’s a reminder, Denneson said, for drivers to be aware of train crossings and obey signals.

“It can be an optical illusion; it looks like [trains are] driving slow, but they’re moving fast,” he said. “It’s a very tragic situation.”

Police are investigating the crash and awaiting toxicology results.

KELLY SMITH

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