DEERFIELD BEACH (CBSMiami) – He survived war, but a 90-year-old veteran died after being hit by a freight train Saturday morning in Deerfield Beach.

His barber of 29-years, and close friend Tina Brown had a sickening feeling when Sammy D’Alessio he didn’t show up for his haircut. “This was his appointment at 9:30,” she said, pointing at her appointment book.  “I thought, ‘Okay, why isn’t Sammy here?’  He’s always early.”

Tragically, Brown’s intuition was correct.  The World War II vet was killed not far away.  A freight train plowed into his car. Investigators say he drove past the flashing lights and safety gates.  “I had to see for myself where he had gone wrong,” said Brown.  “To me, it was either he got confused or he had a heart attack or stroke at that moment.”

That deadly crash happened just as “Train Safety Awareness Week” kicked off.  We took a ride on Tri-Rail.  From the engineer’s seat, you can see cars and people scurry across the track at the last minute – and people walking just feet from a speeding train.  “A train doesn’t stop like a car,” said Tri-Rail Engineer Gus Solanges. “And you cannot steer it, we don’t have a steering wheel like a car.”

It can take up to three football fields before it stops.

In South Florida, 6 people have died on the Tri-Rail tracks alone since Christmas, mostly because of people not paying attention and getting stuck on the tracks. “One would think it’s a no-brainer, but it’s not a no-brainer,” explained South Florida Regional Transportation Authority Spokeswoman Bonnie Arnold.  “You’re never going to beat a train.  It’s just not going to happen.”

Sammy’s friends hope others learn from their pain – and pay very close attention at the tracks. “They need to lower the radio, look both ways,” said Brown.  “Your life is more important, more valuable than having to go fast to get somewhere.”

Police will have extra patrols stationed at rail crossings this week.  They will give warnings or write tickets for drivers or pedestrians who do not obey safety gates and warnings.



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