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Car-train accident closes tracks downtown Farmington

There are a lot of weird questions police are still trying answer after an accident involving a car and a train late Monday night.

The railroad crossings at Elm and Spruce streets were closed for about three hours late Monday and early Tuesday as police and railroad officials investigated the accident. And while police searched for the man who was driving the car.

According to Farmington police sergeant Bob Sauter, shortly after 11 p.m., a man, driving a 2008 or 2009 Chevrolet Avail -- a very small automobile -- apparently turned his vehicle to the right at the train tracks and drove northbound for about 30 yards.

A witness to the accident reported that when a southbound train approached, the man apparently jumped out of his vehicle and started waving his hands in the air, as if trying to flag down the train's engineer and get the train to stop.

"But a southbound train like that isn't going to just stop," Sauter said.

And so it didn't. The train struck the car just north of the Elm Street crossing. They applied the brakes, but the train didn't come to a stop -- Chevy Aveo attached to the front -- until it reached Walnut Street.

The man took off running. He was out of the vehicle when the collision occurred. Witness reports state the man ran in the direction of Kwik Trip, so police spent several hours trying to locate the man.

They are assuming, based on the man's description, the individual they are looking for is the registered owner. However, when they went to the man's home, he was not there. They even enlisted canine search services, but were unable to locate the man by press time Tuesday morning.

"We're still not sure what his intent was or how he ended up (on the tracks)," Sauter said, "but he did turn onto the tracks, maybe thinking there was a road there. I don't know."

Even though the car was removed from the tracks -- a challenge in itself due to the amount of snow that had piled up along the tracks over the past few weeks -- about an hour after the collision, the tracks remained closed until railroad officials could come down to inspect the tracks and the engine and make sure both were safe for operation. .

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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