A dramatic video released by Colorado authorities shows the moment a freight train hit a police patrol cruiser parked on the train tracks with a person handcuffed in the backseat.
The video, which was released on Friday by the Platteville and Fort Lupton police departments, shows how Yareni Rios-Gonzalez, 20, was hurt after officers from both agencies detained her in a patrol car on 16 September as they searched her pickup truck for weapons.
The officers were responding to a report of a road rage confrontation that involved a gun in Fort Lupton. A Platteville police officer stopped Rios-Gonzalez’s truck near a set of railroad tracks and parked the patrol vehicle atop the tracks.
According to the Colorado bureau of investigation, the traffic stop that the officers conducted was considered high risk because they detained Rios-Gonzalez on suspicion of felony menacing, so they put her in the back of a patrol cruiser on the scene.
An edited excerpt of body-camera and dashboard-camera footage posted online shows officers searching the pickup truck and the surrounding area for firearms before a train’s horn is heard in the distance. The officers appear to take at least 15 seconds to realize a Union Pacific train was incoming.
Once one of the officers grasps that the train is approaching the patrol cruiser, they yell while another officer tells his colleague to “stay back”. An officer is then shown turning around a few times near the patrol vehicle before ultimately running for cover as the train slammed into the car, pushing it several yards down the tracks.
After about 20 seconds, a Platteville police officer is heard repeatedly saying: “Hey, was she in there? Was she in there? Was she in there?”
“Oh my God, yes, she was,” the Fort Lupton officer yells back before calling for medical emergency assistance. Both officers run towards the cruiser that the train hit.
According to her attorney Paul Wilkinson, Rios-Gonzalez was unconscious by the time she arrived at the hospital. She suffered numerous injuries, including a broken arm that required surgery, nine broken ribs, a fractured sternum, and a wound to her back and head.
“She saw it coming and could hear the horn,” Wilkinson told the Denver Post. “She was trying to get the police officers’ attention, screaming at them. She tried unlocking the door. She had her hands behind her back and was frantically trying to unlock the door.
“I don’t think you ever park on a train track. Ever,” Wilkinson said, blaming the officers for Rios-Gonzalez’s injuries. “That would have avoided the whole situation. You just never park on a train track. You have to park somewhere else.
“It’s unbelievable they did something like this.”
According to a statement released by the Fort Lupton police department, “officers cleared the suspect vehicle to determine if anyone else was in the vehicle.
“Within a matter of seconds, the Platteville’s police vehicle, which contained the female detainee, was struck by a northbound train. Fort Lupton officers immediately summoned medical assistance and began life sustaining measures.”
The Denver Post reported that the Platteville police department had placed one of the officers involved on paid administrative leave. In a statement to the newspaper, the police chief, Carl Dwyer, did not reveal the officer’s name and refused to answer other questions regarding the traffic stop and crash.
Three agencies are investigating the incident: the Fort Lupton police department is investigating the road rage report, the Colorado state patrol is examining the crash, and the Colorado bureau of investigation is looking at the injuries that Rios-Gonzalez suffered from while in police custody.