Pastor and wife killed when SUV collides with train in Nash County

The SUV that was hit by the train. Photo by AJ Janavel/CBS North Carolina

WHITAKERS, N.C. (WNCN) — A local pastor and his wife died when their SUV was hit by an Amtrak train in Nash County on Sunday afternoon, officials said.

The crash was reported just after 2:20 p.m. in the area of Nash and Railroad streets in Whitakers, authorities said.

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Authorities said a married couple in their 60s drove their SUV around a lowered crossing arm and into the path of the passing train.

Eugene and Dorothy Lyons, of Battleboro, were later identified as the victims, officials said.

Whitakers Police Chief Darrell Cofield told CBS North Carolina that police are not sure why the woman who was driving went around the crossing arm, but Cofield said a witness confirmed it.  Both died at the crash scene, Cofield said.

Cofield also knew the victims.

“It bothered me because growing up here I’ve seen train wrecks before, it really touches close to home with people who grew up with and know,” Cofield told CBS NC.

Both victims were well known in the community and Eugene Lyons was a pastor of a church in Whitakers, friends said.

Amtrak Train 89, the Palmetto, was involved in the crash. The train was originated in New York City and was heading to Savannah, Amtrak officials said.

“Service has been temporarily suspended as local law enforcement investigate the incident,” said Kimberly Woods, an Amtrak spokeswoman.

As of 6:30 p.m. the train was still at the scene. When the crash happened 120 passengers were on the train.

There are no reported injuries to passengers or crew members, Woods said.

Whitakers is located about 10 miles north of Rocky Mount.

Several emergency responders are at the scene including Nash County EMS, Whitakers Fire-EMS, the Nash County Sheriff’s Office and the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.

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