By Ted Scouten

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A Brightline commuter train headed southbound toward the Fort Lauderdale station crashed into a car in Pompano Beach, on the train’s first day back in operation since the pandemic shutdown in March of 2020.

The company’s president, Patrick Goddard, was on board the train heading from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale for a press conference marking the train’s return when it happened. There were 53 people on board the train, no one was injured.

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The train travels at speeds of up to 79 mph through some of Florida’s most densely populated cities. Monday’s crash happened at NE 3rd Street and N Flagler Avenue.

A 71-year-old woman and her year-old grandchild were in the car.

Brightline train crashed into a car in Pompano Beach. (Source: Pompano Beach Fire Rescue)

A witness said her car was on the tracks before the railroad crossing arms were lowered. Sandra King from Pompano Beach Fire Rescue explained what happened.

“A 71-year-old grandmother and her one-year-old grand baby were in a car heading east bound on MLK Blvd. when for some reason she turned right onto the railroad tracks. Literally drove her car on the railroad tracks,” she said. King went on to say, “It’s unclear whether she was trying to turn here, onto Flagler Ave. and she just turned too soon and literally was on the tracks when the train came along so the arms were not flashing when she got onto the tracks,” she said.

According to Pompano Beach Fire Rescue, the woman suffered some broken bones. Her injuries are not life threatening. The child did not appear to be injured. Both were taken to Broward Health North, the baby as a precaution.

“The lady just walked out of the car, literally.,” said Hassan Abid who has a store nearby. His surveillance camera captured the powerful crash.

“You see her walking out and there was a baby in the car and the baby is okay too. That’s a miracle,” he said.

The mangled car was removed from the tracks.  Goddard, from Brightline, said they’re committed to safety along the tracks.

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“We’ve invested millions of dollars in upgraded signaling, gates, bells lights, signage. We’ve gone beyond that and put safety ambassadors, digital signage,” he said.

The South Florida high-speed rail service resumed full operations Monday between its Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach stations.

For the relaunch, Brightline has special ticket promotions. For a limited time, one-way tickets will start at $10 dollars for smart service and $27 dollars for premium. Passengers who download and create an account on the new Brightline app will get their first ride free for smart ride offers through December. Travelers will also have access to a new signature bar and culinary market which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

They also have an autonomous market that allows travelers to purchase snacks from the “MRKT” without having to go to a checkout line. Shoppers tap their debit/credit card on a card reader, the barrier opens, and they can pick what they want and walk out.

“Our new autonomous market, it’s called MRKT, and it’s one of the first deployments in a travel setting in this country at any point in time,” said aid Brightline  Senior Vice President Ben Porritt.

Also new, a door-to-door service pick up and drop off service for people who live with a five-mile radius of a station.

“We’re going to pick you up. We just launched Brightline Plus, which is our new door-to-door service powered by our app and our Brightline branded fleet of vehicles,” said Porritt.

Seventy-five percent of the fleet includes electric vehicles, including Brightline branded Teslas.

To keep passengers safe, new protocols have been put in place including contactless electronic ticketing and check-in to reduce any physical contact throughout the train terminal.

Masks will also be required at all times. Brightline said all its team members are vaccinated.

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Brightline plans to open stations in Aventura and Boca Raton in 2022. Construction to Orlando is on track to be complete by the end of 2022.

Ted Scouten