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SUV Driver Killed After Collision with Brightline Passenger Train in Melbourne; 3 Others Injured

Image taken from Island Tile & Marble video
Courtesy Island Tile and Marble
Image taken from Island Tile & Marble video

Melbourne - Thursday January 11, 2024: The driver of an SUV was killed in Melbourne Wednesday after attempting to cross the railroad tracks ahead of an approaching Brightline passenger train and running into the side of it. Three other passengers in the vehicle were injured.

It happened shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday on WH Jackson Street, just west of South Harbor City Boulevard which is U.S. #1, in Melbourne.

Video of the crash from an Island Tile & Marble security camera shows the SUV heading west on Jackson Street, passing a car that had already stopped for the approaching train, and then driving around the crossing gate and slamming right into the side of the train. The SUV was not hit by the train, rather it ran right into the locomotive at the front of the fast moving Brightline train.

The video, which has been widely circulated on social media, shows that the crossing gate was in the down position.

Melbourne Police Sgt. Ben Slover told WQCS News that when police arrived at the scene they found a Honda Element SUV overturned on the east side of the tracks, just north of the Jackson Street crossing. Four people were inside. The three passengers were taken to Holmes Regional Medical Center were they were in stable condition as of Thursday morning, said Sgt. Slover.

The adult male driver however, was dead at the scene, after succumbing "to his injuries sustained by the impact from the train," said Sgt. Slover in a news release. "It is unknown if alcohol/drugs were a factor in this crash," states the release.

Thursday afternoon Melbourne police released the identifies of the injured passengers and dead driver:

  • Driver/Deceased: Charles Julian Phillips, B/M, 62 YOA of Melbourne
  • Passengers: Keisha Balingei Gonzalez H/F, 48 YOA of Melbourne
  • Terricha Culbreth B/F, 44 YOA of Palm Bay
  • 9 year old juvenile of Palm Bay

The crash remains under investigation.
The Melbourne Traffic Enforcement Unit is currently investigating it as a Traffic Homicide. Anyone with any information about the crash is asked to call Melbourne Traffic Homicide Investigator Officer Costello at (321) 608-6731.