Driver reportedly tried to bypass crossing arms in train fatality

Burbank firefighters look at the front car of a Metrolink train that struck and killed the driver of a car at the intersection of San Fernando and Buena Vista Street in Burbank. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer / September 2, 2014)

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Initial reports suggest that the motorist killed in the train collision Tuesday had attempted to drive around or through the railroad crossing arms, which were already down, when he was struck by the train, Burbank police said.

The man, identified by authorities as 79-year-old Burbank resident Fawaz Khalil, was headed southbound on Buena Vista Street when a motorist in front of him was reportedly attempting to make a right onto San Fernando Boulevard, said Burbank Police Officer Joshua Kendrick.

Khalil reportedly drove around the motorist and tried to go around or through the railroad crossing arms, and as soon as his vehicle entered the crossing, it was struck by the oncoming train, Kendrick said.

“It was pretty simultaneous,” Kendrick said, adding that it didn’t appear that Khalil had been sitting on the tracks or attempting to exit the car.

The impact sent the car about 300 feet south of the collision, Kendrick said. The initial information is based on witness accounts, and the investigation is ongoing, he added.

Burbank resident Levon Gharibian, 24, was driving northbound on Buena Vista Street and stopped just behind a motor officer when he noticed that the train was approaching.

With his windows rolled up, he heard a small thump, and then saw sand-like debris flying as the train passed.

At first, he thought it was a mixture of trash and dust in the area.

He realized there had been a collision when he saw metal debris on the tracks and street, and the car – which looked like “a mauled-up gum wrapper” – to his right, with the airbag inflated.

Anyone who witnessed the collision is asked to call Burbank police at (818) 238-3100.