A man driving his Jeep over the unprotected railroad crossing in the Riverbend office complex was struck by a train in what is the third such accident in as many years.
The man was driving toward Hope Street on Riverbend Drive South when the 10:02 a.m. New Canaan-bound Metro-North Railroad commuter train struck the vehicle at about 10:15 a.m.
Metro-North did not immediately confirm the driver's identity, but at the scene, Lance Choos of Darien said the driver was his 19-year-old son, Drew Choos, who had gone out to run an errand, but didn't know why he had driven into the office park.
"He was running an errand but I don't know specifically what he was doing in here," Choos said.
MTA Police Lt. Joe Esposito said the man explained to responding firefighters that he did not see the lights flashing and as he was going over the tracks the train was nearly on top of him. The man said he gunned the black Jeep, but the train clipped the left rear of his vehicle, Esposito said.
The vehicle was pushed to the east side of the tracks and turned facing south after the accident with heavy damage to the rear of the car.
The driver was moving his hands as he was put into a neck brace and picked up on a backboard and put into a waiting ambulance.
The crossing, which has lights and bells but no gates, has been a problem for a number of drivers and neighborhood residents.
Will Brown, who lives next to the crossing was particularly vocal about the lack of safety equipment at the crossing.
He said he has lived there 20 years and has seen six such accidents.
"How many times?" he asked. "Why can't we have the gates? I heard it costs too much money. How many times is it going to be on the evening news? I'm tired of getting my name into the paper for this. It is lives that we are talking about."
Eight-year Hope Street resident David Pellettiere said he has seen four accidents at the scene since moving to his home.
While looking over a fence watching the crossing's latest victim be put into the ambulance Pellettiere said, "They need to put up the gates. Whatever they are doing to make it safe, isn't working."
The last accident at the crossing occurred in the morning of Nov. 17, 2011, when an Advocate delivery driver had her car clipped by a train as she was driving toward Hope Street. On Sept. 27, 2011, an 80-year-old Greenwich woman's Cadillac was also struck by a train at the same crossing. Both women survived.
In August 2008 at 17-year-old male had his car smashed by a train. That crash, in which the driver also survived, caused $30,000 in damage to the train and property belonging to the Minturnese Social Club, which is located at the corner of Hope Street and Riverbend Drive.
In each instance, Metro-North found the drivers to be at fault.
Even though the crossing meets state safety standards, after the 2008 accident the Riverbend Center, which owns the crossing, and the State Department of Transportation began corresponding about installing gates, but the effort has not been completed.
Two other crossings in the office park have gates.
Anders said that Metro-North received a letter from the Connecticut Department of Transportation last week asking the railroad to prepare a detailed cost estimate for installing gates at the privately owned crossing. That estimate is due on Sept. 18, Anders said.