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Charges are pending in car-train crash

A southbound train pushed this Chevy Aveo for seven blocks before it was able to stop. The driver fled the scene.

Police are still not sure why a driver turned his Chevy Aveo onto train tracks in downtown Farmington last week, but they expect to file charges in the matter very soon.

Farmington detective sergeant Lee Hollatz has spoken with the driver of the car, which was more than officers at the scene of the Dec. 20 car-train accident could say.

Around 10:40 p.m. that evening, police officers responded to a report of a car being struck by a train near the Elm Street crossing. According to officers at the scene, the driver had turned his small car onto the railroad tracks and driven about 30 yards north on the tracks.

When he saw the southbound train coming at him, the driver apparently jumped from the vehicle and started waving his hands in the air, according to a witness' account. The train, unable to stop on short notice, struck the car and pushed about seven blocks south before coming to a stop.

Officers were unable to locate the driver following the accident.

In the days following the accident, Hollatz was able to locate and speak with the man, whose name has not been released because the incident is still under investigation. The man's only explanation as to why he had turned his car onto the tracks was that it was "a mistake," according to Hollatz. There is no evidence the man was operating the vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Hollatz expects to press charges relatively soon, though he could not say what the charges might be. There are fines for being on the railroad tracks and for fleeing the scene of an accident, but he could not comment on which charges the driver would face until the investigation is complete.

"We're looking at the statutes that relate to this type of thing," he said.

The railroad company will conduct its own investigation, Hollatz said. Because railroads are federally regulated, the company may press additional charges.

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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