Driver flees after vehicle hit by train

Published 8:43 pm Friday, December 29, 2017

No injuries were reported after a van was hit by a CSX train at Park Avenue and Elm Street Thursday around 6:50 p.m.

Michael Veltman II, 48, was arrested by LaGrange police after attempting to drive across the tracks while the train was passing. His vehicle was struck on the rear driver’s side quarter panel and spun out.

“The train was able to get stopped, at which time the conductor came back to check on the vehicle, and the driver had fled the scene on foot,” said LaGrange Police Senior Officer Chad Bohannon.

Police found Veltman at the LaGrange Garden Inn Hotel hours later.

Veltman told police that his passenger said they were going to run out of gas if he didn’t beat the train, according to the police report. The passenger also fled after the incident.

“The passenger has not been identified,” Bohannon said. “The driver claims to not know the name of the passenger.”

Veltman is charged with failure to stop for railroad crossing, leaving the scene of an accident and striking a fixture.

Bohannon said residents should not cross railroads when oncoming trains are present.

“Obviously, trains have much more weight and are capable of damaging or injuring individuals much greater than what a vehicle could do. You can’t stop trains on a dime, as well as it takes several hundred feet to stop a train of that size and the vehicle essentially has no chance,” Bohannon said.

“Drivers should obviously obey the traffic signals and signage, and always make sure that its clear to cross the railroad before entering it even when there’s no lights or indicators or arms down. It’s something that needs to be routine.”

CSX did not immediately return a call Friday afternoon.