PALM BEACH COUNTY, FL – According to mypalmbeachpost.com, Palm Beach County medical examiners have reported that three the pedestrians who were accidentally killed by the new fast-moving Brightline trains had drugs in their systems. Brightline started running tests of their trains last year, and since then, five people have been killed. Two of the deaths were suicides, and the other three were accidental.
Starting in January, about 22 Brightline trains have been running every day between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. The trains reach speeds of around 79 mph, which is double the speed of the trains that have used the same track system for the past 100 years.
The group Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida, CARE FL, has argued that 80 miles per hour trains do not belong on tracks that cross through downtown areas with heavy foot traffic. The group’s spokesperson states that the circumstances of these deaths have no impact on the group’s position.
The first of the three pedestrians accidentally killed was Melissa Lavell, a 32-year-old woman who witnesses say attempted to cross the tracks when the gates were down and was struck on January 12. She tested positive for opiates, cocaine, and fentanyl. On January 17, Jeffrey King, 51, was killed when he rode his bike around the gates and was struck. King tested positive for cannabinoids, which are synthetic compounds that which impact a person like marijuana but are much stronger. The third pedestrian killed was John Nitz, 56, who witnesses say stood on the tracks while the train was approaching and refused to move. Despite the circumstances, his death was determined to be an accident. Nitz tested positive for sedatives, cocaine, opiates, alcohol, and oxycodone.
Brightline has been working on a safety campaign intended to educate the public about railroad safety.