Close call between school van, commuter rail train in Whitman caught on video

WHITMAN, MASS. (WHDH) - The driver of special needs school van is on leave while officials investigate a close call with a commuter rail train Monday in Whitman.

Police are investigating after a van driver for the North River Collaborative in Rockland came dangerously close on Monday to being struck by a commuter rail train with a monitor and student on board.

A 69-year-old driver, a bus monitor and a 15-year-old student were in the van when it came to a stop on the railroad safety gate.

After reviewing video of the incident, police determined that the van did come to a full stop at the properly marked line prior to the tracks, as is required by law. As the driver began to roll forward across the tracks, the gates had already begun to lower down.

“Instead of just continuing to go, he stopped and he kind of panicked. He tried to back up while the gate was coming down,” Whitman Police Chief Scott Benton said.

A railroad gate arm struck the top of the van. The driver parallel parked by the tracks. The northbound train then whizzed by.

“We are working with local law enforcement regarding this matter and have put the driver on leave pending our investigation,” North River Collaborative Executive Director Stephen Donovan said in a statement. “As always, the safety of our students and staff is paramount.”

Donovan said school officials “are grateful that no harm was incurred by the student, monitor, or driver.”

The driver of the van will not face charges, according to police.

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