By Darrel Todd Maurina
A Portales woman who drove around barricades and “road closed” signs was killed by a freight train on Tuesday night after her vehicle became stuck on railroad tracks near Melrose, police said.
Amanda Tenorio, 21, had been visiting family in Moriarty and was returning to her home in Portales when the accident occurred about 10:50 p.m., officials said.
New Mexico State Police said a Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train hit the 21-year-old’s car at the State Road 267 railroad crossing, just south of U.S. 60. Tenorio died from injuries suffered in the collision.
The road leading south from U.S. 60 to the train tracks is closed for track construction. According to the state police report, Tenorio successfully crossed the westbound tracks after driving around barricades and “road closed” signs, but her car became stuck on the eastbound tracks.
“For an unknown reason at this time, Ms. Tenorio remained inside the vehicle,” according to the report. “It appears that while the vehicle was sitting on the tracks the warning lights activated and the crossing arms came down to alert of an oncoming train traveling westbound.”
Even after the warning lights activated, Tenorio remained inside the car, which was hit just behind the driver’s door and pushed by the train for several yards, the report said.
Lt. Rick Durham of the New Mexico state police said that while the incident is still under investigation, there is no evidence of foul play.
Tenorio’s family could not be reached on Wednesday.
A Portales neighbor, Ken O’Neal, said he had gotten to know her well since she moved next door a few months ago before graduating from Eastern New Mexico University and was “shaken up” when he learned the news.
“She was just a typical 21-year-old kid who had her whole life in front of her and this doesn’t sound like her,” O’Neal said. “She was like one of my kids and pretty quiet, had friends over quite often.
“From what (our landlord) told me, she left (Moriarty) about 9 p.m. (Tuesday) night and her folks had tried to have her stay there because it was too late to go out,” O’Neal said. “I’m quite sure she was aware of the road conditions and construction. I can’t understand why she would drive around barricades.”
Lt. Durham said drivers need to pay attention to warning signs.
“Road closed means road closed,” Durham said. “There is a reason for road closures so I would certainly discourage people from ignoring those signs. It could be dangerous to those who ignore the sign.”
BNSF spokesperson Lena Kemp said the train with two engines and 15 cars loaded with miscellaneous freight had originated in Clovis. The speed limit on the Melrose track segment was 55 mph and Kemp said company officials will check speed tapes to verify compliance with that speed limit.
“In a situation like this, a train traveling 55 mph takes a mile and a half to stop,” Kemp said.