Florida’s high-speed passenger train service suffered the first fatality on its new extension to Orlando on Thursday when a pedestrian was struck in what appears to be a suicide, officials said. Overall, it was Brightline’s 99th death since it began operations six years ago.
A northbound Brightline train headed to Orlando struck the 25-year-old man shortly before 9 a.m. near the Atlantic Coast city of Fort Pierce, St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said at a news conference. He said the man was homeless and appeared to have intentionally stepped in front of the train.
Brightline’s trains travel up to 79 mph (127 kph) in urban areas, 110 mph (177 kph) in less-populated regions and 125 mph (200 kph) through central Florida’s farmland. It is unknown how fast this train was traveling, Mascara said.
Brightline officials did not immediately respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment.
Brightline opened its extension connecting Miami and Orlando on Friday, though the celebration was marred when a pedestrian was struck by one of the company’s trains carrying commuters from West Palm Beach to Miami.
Brightline trains have had the highest death rate in the U.S. since its Miami-West Palm operations began — about one death for every 32,000 miles (51,500 kilometers) its trains travel, according to an ongoing Associated Press analysis of federal data that began in 2019. The next-worst major railroad has a fatality every 130,000 miles (209,200 kilometers).
None of the previous deaths have been found to be Brightline’s fault — most have been suicides, drivers who go around crossing gates or pedestrians running across tracks.
Brightline has taken steps its leaders believe enhance safety, including adding closed-circuit cameras near tracks, installing better crossing gates and pedestrian barriers, and posting signage that includes the suicide prevention hotline.